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Should statues of Horatio Nelson be taken down?

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Should statues of Horatio Nelson be taken down?

Post by Ivan on Wed Aug 23, 2017 5:07 pm

In a sentence, the American Civil War of 1861-5 occurred because the eleven Confederate states in the south wanted to keep slavery and fought to leave the USA to ensure that they could. The war ended when Robert E. Lee surrendered the last major Confederate army to Ulysses S. Grant in April 1965. Statues and monuments were later erected, many of them to mark the 50th anniversary of the conflict and ostensibly to honour those who lost their lives in the conflict. But how must black parents have felt when they needed to walk their children past monuments to those who fought to keep people of colour enslaved?

The writer and broadcaster Afua Hirsch notes  that “more than 700 of these monuments which still stand in states including Virginia, Georgia and Texas have always been the subject of offence and trauma for many African Americans, who rightly see them as glorifying the slavery and then segregation of their not so distant past. But when these statues begin to fulfil their intended purpose of energising white supremacist groups, the issue periodically attracts more mainstream interest.” Many of them are being pulled down, and it was the proposed removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, that led to the serious disturbance and death of a young woman on 12 August.

The mealy-mouthed response of Donald Trump, his reluctance to single out white supremacists, and to use false equivalence by saying that those who protested against them were just as culpable, was bad enough. But then he went on to suggest that if those who want Confederate monuments removed get their way, they’ll next want statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson dismantled as well, since both were slave owners. There is of course a world of difference. Washington fought the British to gain independence for his country, Lee went to war against his own countrymen.

Hirsch argues that statues of Horatio Nelson should be the next to go. He writes: “Nelson was what you would now call, without hesitation, a white supremacist. While many around him were denouncing slavery, Nelson was vigorously defending it. Britain’s best known naval hero – so idealised that after his death in 1805 he was compared to no less than ‘the God who made him’ – used his seat in the House of Lords and his position of huge influence to perpetuate the tyranny, serial rape and exploitation organised by West Indian planters, some of whom he counted among his closest friends.”

Is Hirsch right? Like Washington, who fought for his country, and Jefferson, who enlarged it by purchasing Louisiana from France, Nelson was a patriot. However, like Lee, Nelson actively supported slavery, even if he didn’t fight his own countrymen except in Parliament. So should statues of Nelson be taken down? I think not. If you pass a statue of Lee, you probably think of slavery; if you pass a statue of Nelson, you probably think of the Battle of Trafalgar and the threat to Britain from Napoleon Bonaparte. If you don’t like Nelson, just think of what the pigeons are doing to him in Trafalgar Square. And although we should never cease to remember the evil of slavery - which hasn't been eradicated from the world - is it right to condemn people of earlier centuries for not sharing all of our 21st century values?

Now Cecil Rhodes might be a different matter.......

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/22/toppling-statues-nelsons-column-should-be-next-slavery
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Re: Should statues of Horatio Nelson be taken down?

Post by oftenwrong on Thu Aug 24, 2017 5:44 pm

Aren't there any statues of Thatcher we could take down?
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Re: Should statues of Horatio Nelson be taken down?

Post by Ivan on Sat Aug 26, 2017 3:47 pm

£300,000 was spent on a bronze statue of Thatcher, but it won’t be erected in Parliament Square for two reasons. Firstly, she was such a divisive character that the statue would probably be vandalised. Secondly, her daughter has objected because there is no handbag in the statue!

The pertinent question here is - should we remove statues of everyone who might offend someone? Wouldn’t that make us as bad as the Taliban and ISIS, with their respective specialities for destroying Buddhist statues and ancient Syrian artefacts?

Now Cecil Rhodes might be a different matter.......
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