Erasing our connections to the past

Lewis Wetzel was a bloodthirsty murderer of native Americans, it has been said. If Wetzel saw an Indian, he tried to kill him, in cold blood, if possible, according to some of his critics.

So, should we hop in our cars and drive to Morgantown, there to tear down or at least shroud the statue of Wetzel in front of the Monongalia County Courthouse?

What about high school mascots portraying native Americans in ways that might be offensive? Do they all need to go?

If you think I’m getting carried away on erasing modern connections to people we think now must have been racists, think again. Well, what about the University of Southern California, where the Trojan mascot often appears mounted on a horse called Traveler? Some at USC object to that.

Robert E. Lee’s favorite horse was Traveler, you see.

Obviously, we’re getting a bit carried away.

Some people — but not all — are disturbed by the mob mentality being demonstrated in calls to erase reminders of history we wish hadn’t occurred. But lots of people think it’s a great idea.

After weeks of wondering what’s wrong with this picture, I think I’ve finally stumbled across an answer:

It’s the easy way out. It makes some people feel good about themselves. Hey, look, I’m battling bigotry!

But you aren’t. If anything, you’re hardening the attitudes of many who harbor racism in their hearts.

Really doing something about bigotry is much more difficult than tearing down a statue.

Tackling the problem requires changing attitudes, and, again, the current campaign merely hardens them.

What’s more difficult? Getting in a mayor’s face about a statue of Lee or sitting down with a teenager to convince him that no matter what dad says, minorities are human beings, too?

There are people, some of them here in the Ohio Valley, who have taken on the hard work of changing minds. They’re too busy building up to tear anything down.

But the frenzy will continue, because the mob has taken over and it’s easier to follow them than to do anything truly meaningful.

It’s not about ending bigotry. It’s about people trying to convince themselves they’re heroes.

One wonders, by the way, how the cultural sensitivity crowd is going to handle what some consider a monument to the “gay liberation movement.” It’s a bar in New York City which has been recognized as an official national monument.

It’s called the Stonewall Inn.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.


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