Those voices are discussing confederate statues, clear symbols that remind the world at large that you’re a loser more explicitly than owning an Android phone, getting a Harry Potter tattoo, or having a bathroom counter lined with a wide array of Amway products.
The removal of these and other monuments have prompted outrage in small circles throughout America who are worried about preserving the country’s heritage: after all, if someone takes down a statue of George Washington, how will we ever remember that he was president?
In the wake of the George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests, activists have called for the removal of icons that glorify the worst aspects of our society, dragging a folder marked “Roseanne” from the desktop into the trash.
Protesters and politicians alike have toppled or removed statues of confederate leaders, such as Jefferson Davis, Robert E Lee, and Stonewall Jackson, the Snap, Crackle, and Pop of Racist Krispies who remain honored for losing a war 41 years before Kellogg’s began manufacturing cereal.
Memorials to segregationists, slaveholders, and other lousy dinner party guests have also been targeted, including more than three dozen different statues of Christopher Columbus over his genocidal tendencies, a Theodore Roosevelt sculpture at the Museum of Natural History that emblemizes colonization, and Philadelphia’s shameful bronze Sylvester Stallone that celebrates the atrocity known as Rocky V.
And because outdated iconography faces no statute of limitations, collected action has not been limited to statues.
Due to his well-documented racist history, Woodrow Wilson’s name will be stricken from the record at Princeton University and his buildings will be renamed to something more appropriate, like “The I’m Having My Legacy Hedge Fund Manager Father Pay 50 Grand A Semester During A Pandemic For An Online School of Public and International Affairs.”
Last week, Mississippi voted to remove the confederate battle emblem from its state flag, which will presumably be replaced with a picture of a guy on a tractor struggling to read the Bible.
And to remove any lingering associations with racial insensitivity, the musical group Lady Antebellum rebranded itself “Lady A,” and the Dixie Chicks have become chicks without Dixie and are now simply known as “The Chicks,” signifying a willingness to make powerful steps towards, hopefully, someday, eradicating country music altogether.
Erasing the shameful elements of the country’s history seems like a fast and easy solution, just as clearing your browser history can make it seem like you don’t know the URL to pornhub.com.
But even if you rename Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville” to just “Margaritaville,” it’s not like you’re fooling anyone — you’re still going to end up with a migraine and a stomach ache.
There are many painful strands in this country’s DNA that simply can’t be edited out using CRISPR, and we can’t just sequence away bacteria by pretending it no longer exists.
Don’t get me wrong — confederate statues need to be taken down because they, like a community theater production of Hamilton, never should have been put up in the first place.
But truly important historical figures that have undeniably complicated legacies, like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, shouldn’t be dumped in the river overnight like a Sopranos extra — they should be remembered precisely for their complex histories, the fact that things are not always black and white, and that seemingly good people can actually be terrible people.
Besides, this is the country of Breaking Bad, The Godfather, and Grand Theft Auto — since when did we start rooting for the good guy?
The president, himself a wax figure, signed an executive order on Monday demanding the creation of a “National Garden of Heroes,” featuring historically significant Americans such as Davy Crockett, Antonin Scalia, and Amelia Earhart — if anyone can find her.
But if we truly want to create a lasting monument that truly honors this country’s citizens, perhaps we should spend our energy on ending qualified immunity for police officers, eliminating weapons of war from our streets, and convincing Karen at the Macaroni Grill that she needs to wear a mask if she wants to pick up her 5,000 calories to go, before we start pouring cement that we’ll try to take down again in another hundred years.