The monuments men…

…and women—to all those misguided individuals jumping on the careening bandwagon of indiscriminately tearing down monuments, I understand the sentiments. After all, people like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were traitors to this nation while defending an ugly, racist economy based on slavery. Slavery and human trafficking are despicable crimes that aren’t justified by the nefarious concept that some humans aren’t humans at all but possessions.

That said, I’d rather place monuments to Confederate traitors in museums where the tale of their terrible deeds is completely displayed for all to see. My reason is simple: I’m not sure people know about Lee’s or Jackson’s life stories and how they came to be traitors. Lee was a graduate of West Point, after all, but the U.S. military was racist right into the 20th century. Germany turned some famous concentration camps into historical sites so that Germans and the world would never forget the Nazi atrocities. We need to do the same with slavery and those who tried to tear the Union apart in support of it.

But let’s be reasonable about this. Historical figures like Washington and Jefferson and other Founding Fathers did a lot to jumpstart this nation. Their peccadilloes aren’t excusable, of course, but they were so much more than slave owners, and they weren’t traitors to the U.S. In fact, our country wouldn’t have existed without them!

What’s more worrisome are the sneaky politicians and power-grabbers jumping on the anti-monuments bandwagon and encouraging crowds to tear the monuments down. An egregious example is Bill DeBlasio’s desire to tear down the Columbus statue at NYC’s Columbus Circle, home to Lincoln Center. Guess what? He’s the mayor of NYC and—surprise, surprise!—he’s running for reelection. Just as Trump panders to his base of alt-right, KKK, white supremacist, and neo-Nazi crazies, DeBlasio panders to his base too. And he stokes the fires of division by doing so.

NYC has a large Italian-immigrant population. For them, and for most of us, Columbus is honored for discovering America (it’s named for another Italian, by the way). Yes, Columbus is also known for treating Native Americans badly, but when we compare what he did with the treatment handed out by the Spanish conquistadors and missionaries who followed (the Inquisition was in its heyday), his actions were less significant (missionaries killed Native Americans if they didn’t convert). That doesn’t justify his deeds, but it adds perspective to history. Ironically, the man couldn’t get financed by his compatriots, so he had to hit Isabella, the Queen of Spain, for the funds.

More perspective is added when we consider American leaders and white men in general who, much later than Columbus, systematically exterminated Native Americans. If anyone is a symbol of these atrocities, it’s the fellow in Massachusetts who handed out smallpox-infected blankets to Native Americans and others of his ilk. The latter included American “heroes” and leaders like Andrew Jackson, who thought the only good Native American is a dead one. (He’s one of Mr. Trump’s heroes, and Mr. Mnuchin has already announced that the plan to replace his image on the $20 dollar bill with Harriet Tubman’s is too “politically correct” and won’t continue. Gimme a break!)

People have to learn to choose their political battles wisely. Monuments and faces on our money don’t preserve poverty, put people unfairly in jail, or enslave or kill people. Blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities won’t solve their problems by toppling a few statues. And politicians use the latter as a distraction from the real problems, like both Trump and De Blasio. Losing a few statues is a minimal price the elites are willing to pay to avoid solving the nation’s problems.

Note that I’m not supporting either man on this. By informing about politicians like Mr. Trump and Mr. De Blasio, I’m moving beyond politics. Or, if you like, I’m stressing the need for social change. We can’t change anything by venting our frustrations with the status quo on a few monuments and symbols. Racists go on being racists, and politicians will continue to support policies that widen the income gap and prevent equal opportunity from being given to everyone in our country. The last isn’t about politics at all. It’s about ignoring fat-cat politicians’ distractions and becoming a force for change.

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Rembrandt’s Angel (a mystery/thriller from Penmore Press). To what lengths would you go to recover a stolen masterpiece? Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone goes the extra mile. She and paramour/sidekick Bastiann van Coevorden, an Interpol agent, set out to outwit the dealers of stolen art and recover “An Angel with Titus’ Features,” a Rembrandt painting stolen by Nazis in World War Two. Their efforts lead to much more as they uncover an international conspiracy that threatens Europe. During their dangerous adventures, their relationship solidifies and becomes a full-blown romance. This book is available in ebook format at Amazon and Smashwords and the latter’s affiliate retailers (Apple, B&N, Kobo). It’s available as a print version at Amazon, B&N, or your favorite bookstore (if not there, ask for it). See the review and interview at Feathered Quill.

And so it goes….

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