Statues in Glass Houses
I received a good deal of feedback over the weekend on both Twitter and Facebook regarding my post about the removal of Confederate statues.
I also woke on Sunday morning to a tweet from the Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York, which read as follows:
Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson will be removed from the CUNY hall of great Americans because New York stands against racism.
Now I don't claim to know what influence the Governor has over the City University of New York. It may well be that he sits on their board, and played an active part in this decision. If he did, then good for him. If he's simply backing a decision by an unaffiliated body, then I'm less impressed.
It also occurs to me that, if Governor Cuomo really wants to make a stand, he needn't look as far afield as the City University. He has it within his power, with the stroke of his pen, to rename Madison Square Garden.
For those who aren't aware, Madison Square Garden, the oldest major sporting facility in the New York metropolitan area, and the fourth busiest music arena in the world (not the US, but the WORLD), was named after President James Madison, one of the founding fathers, the fourth president of the United States, and the owner of more than one hundred slaves.
Above: (left) Governor Cuomo, (centre) Madison Square Garden, (right) President Madison.
I'm going to take an un-researched risk here, and predict that the City University of New York will have lost absolutely no revenue whatsoever by removing the statues of Generals Jackson and Lee - the latter a man who brought the Civil War to an end, set his own slaves free, and worked for the rest of his life to rebuild America. I'm sorry, but when the state decides to put its money where its mouth is with regard to racism, and renames one of its top income earners, then, and only then, will I start to take the Governor's commitment seriously.
Since yesterday's post, I have also been doing some research of my own. As a kid, I loved a good cowboy story, and who could go further than Kit Carson in that regard? I didn't know it, but there are a number of prominent statues to Carson, one in Trinidad, Colorado, another outside the Nevada State Capital building in Carson City, and a third in Denver, Colorado.
Above: Statues to Kit Carson in (left) Trinidad, Colorado, (centre) Fort Carson, Colorado Springs, and (right) on the grounds of the Nevada State Capital.
The problem is, Carson wasn't the all-American cowboy hero we were brought up to believe. Today, we'd have called him a war criminal, and charged him with mass murder, if not with attempted genocide for the manner in which he treated the indigenous population of the United States. If you're in any doubt, ask Navajo tail guide and historian Adam Teller, who took part in a CBS documentary on Carson not that long ago.
Having taken hundreds of Navajo braves captive, Carson marched his starving prisoners relentlessly on what became known as the "Long Walk of the Navajo", which Teller calls an "infamous long walk that killed thousands." The best estimate is that as many as 3,000 Navajo died on that 425 mile march, while a further 2,000 died within two years of being confined to the reservation into which they were herded.
"Navajo people compare Kit Carson to a person like Hitler," Teller explains. "He murdered thousands of innocent people, women and children. So the comparisons of Hitler and Kit Carson are not off by much here in Navajoland." Teller's comments can be found in full on the CBS website. (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/kit-carson-hero-or-villain/2/)
What troubles me most is that no one seems to be talking about Carson, no one is calling into question the reputation of a man who has been lauded as an American hero, and whose statues grace a number of prominent locations. Where are the Antifa marches to have them removed? Where are the petitions? Where are the state governors tweeting about their unsuitability in the modern world? When I start seeing those, I might be more inclined to consider the left's pleas to be genuine and heartfelt, rather than merely opportunistic. When I see those, I might even be willing to reconsider my stance on statues of General Lee, a man whose reputation stands head and shoulders above that of the celebrated Kit Carson.