Baltimore’s Mayor and Maryland’s Governor have taken steps to de-escalate potential violence over Confederate monuments and both should be praised for their leadership.
We’re living in a particularly stupid time. Bored teenagers, pink-haired communists, and silly middle-aged men who tend to side with the losers in wars are getting free air time on major news stations and spewing unfathomably dumb rhetoric. Basically, “alt” plus anything is a recipe for wannabe terrorism with a sugar coating of sanctimony. It doesn’t help matters that the vast majority of media outlets openly have chosen one “alt” over the other (protip: both are repugnant).
In a time where the adults clearly aren’t running the cameras and the echo chambers on Twitter are in full effect, it was gratifying to see at least a few glimmers of politicians being grownups. The examples come from Maryland with Republican Governor Larry Hogan and Democrat Mayor of Baltimore Catherine Pugh. Both have to deal with radicals in a petulant legislature, Hogan with the General Assembly and Pugh with alt-left radicals on Baltimore’s City Council.
Despite the challenges, both Hogan and Pugh made decisions that should be commended when it comes to the controversy du jour: monuments to the Confederacy (and former Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney).
A Baffling Debate
Now, you’re not going to find a defense of Confederate monuments here. Frankly, it’s baffling why urban planners of the early 20th century decided to build statues of losers. Sure, heritage and heroic sacrifice are noble virtues, and you’re not going to get an argument here about monuments at graveyards or even battlefields (the historical precedent is to categorize both Union and Confederate casualties as American casualties during the Civil War), but the rationale for lionizing losers in the public square doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense.
Now, enter the events of Saturday’s White Supremacist rally and Antifa counter-rally and the ensuing bloodshed in Charlottesville. As we just pointed out, people taking part in either one of these radical groups really don’t deserve airtime to spew hate. In this case, unlike in previous rallies where the right-wing jerks had come under attack, an alt-right terrorist drove his car into a pack of left-wing protesters. Hopefully they fry him.
With that backdrop, and the fact that people are bored in our society right now (the economy is humming along, the prospects of war are diminishing, no major natural disasters to speak of, etc.), protests about Confederate monuments and racial tension are now issues for the media. The President did little to tamp down on the nonsense, despite the fact that he is absolutely right to condemn violence on both sides of the issue. In this situation, should he have reserved criticism of the alt-left for a later time? Probably. Would the media and his critics have found anything he said offensive and objectionable? Yes.
In Durham North Carolina, alt-left and Black Lives Matter radicals tore down a statue honoring Confederate war dead. Similar protests and rallies have been planned across the South (and, like cockroaches, the alt-right is planning their own nonsense rallies as well).
The Problem Comes to Maryland
Now come Baltimore’s alt-left radicals. With their compliant allies on the City Council, they hatched a plan to destroy Baltimore’s monuments to the Confederacy in the same manner as the vandals in Durham. The group released a statement that they intended to tear down a statue of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and gave a date and time. At the same time, threats were being made about a statue of Justice Taney, the author of the infamous Dred Scott decision that preserved slavery in the antebellum South, that sits on the grounds of Maryland’s Statehouse.
Governor Hogan promptly, and without fanfare, issued a directive to the preservation society that has care and custody over the Taney statue that it was his opinion that the statue should be removed. This preempted a firestorm and fight over the statue and quickly and effectively defused an otherwise potentially escalating drama.
The Governor’s decisive leadership and willingness to work in a bipartisan manner to de-escalate conflict was almost comically juxtaposed with grandstanding former NAACP leader Ben Jealous, who is running for Governor, being arrested at a protest rally. The fact that these events happened at almost exactly the same time demonstrate the real divide between effective leadership (Hogan) and those who would rather profit from conflict (Jealous).
Overnight, Baltimore’s Mayor ordered that the Confederate monuments in Baltimore would be removed and the same were loaded into flatbed trucks and driven away. Insodoing, the Mayor spared them the likely destruction that was imminent by a mob looking for its moment on camera. Not only does this deny the alt-left radicals their crowning achievement, but it also protects Baltimore’s police officers from attack (look at almost any alt-left riot around the country and you can see that they have no respect for the police and are willing to seriously injure officers in furtherance of their warped ideology).
Mayor Pugh, unlike the far-left ideologues on the City Council, had promised that the Confederate monuments in the City would be transferred to Confederate cemeteries elsewhere in the State. This is an equitable solution and the proper place for such displays. For his part, Governor Hogan has advocated that the Taney statue be transferred to a museum with proper historical context.
Predictably, some on the right are upset about the Mayor’s decision to remove the monuments and the Governor’s apparent acquiescence to the heckler’s veto. Their point, well-taken, is that these monuments weren’t deemed offensive during the civil rights movement and are a symbol of American history. Further, removal is giving into terrorists and threats of violence that will only act to embolden the same radicals in the future.
Bad Precedent, but Good Triage
Are the critics right? Sure, in a very narrow sense. Yes, giving into hecklers and rioters is a bad precedent. While we shouldn’t give in to the slippery slope argument of “well, are they going to tear down George Washington statues next,” it is important to remember the difference between contextualizing history and sanitizing it. The City Council and the Antifa terrorists have advocated for the “destruction” of the statues (like what happened in Durham). To the contrary, the Mayor and Governor have charted a course that would put these monuments in places that befit their significance to history. This is an important distinction. We must strongly condemn people who would erase or destroy historical artifacts, yes, even ones they find repugnant. With the risk of sounding hyperbolic, this is the same action taken by the Islamic State in places like Palmyra. It must be strongly opposed.
In the broader sense, however, critics of the Mayor and the Governor are failing to see that both were acting to prevent vandalism and the inevitable media coverage that would only act to inflame tensions. Given the media’s complicity in fanning the flames on this story and their inevitable coverage of the left-wing vandals in Maryland, the Mayor and Governor both took reasonable action under the circumstances, triaged the problems that the State and City were facing, and have, likely, averted ongoing and escalating crises.
We encourage the Mayor and the Governor to follow through on their respective promises to properly contextualize the statues in question and to continue to be voices of calm, collected, reason despite the swirl of controversy and anger being fomented by people who profit from it.