There was a time in America when Abraham Lincoln was perceived as pretty upright — people even elected him president. Fast-forward to honors such as the penny (1909), the five-dollar bill (1914), and the Lincoln Memorial (1922). But a man born in 1809 is unacceptably out of step with today’s superior sensibilities.
Such is the assertion of an article published by Syracuse University’s student paper, The Daily Orange. Per the piece, Joe Biden’s former campus home hosts two statues honoring Lincoln — portraits of “a president worthy of our admiration and sympathy.”
However, don’t be fooled:
[S]uch awe-inspiring statues can be deceiving, for monuments are both symbols of value and oppression. Lincoln symbolizes the re-establishment of the United States, the abolition of slavery and the embodiment of our inalienable rights. … But we must not blindly accept these virtuous symbols nor be fooled by Lincoln’s humble appearance.
The author insists the statues be eliminated — after all, that’s free speech:
The removal…should not be demonized as unpatriotic nor characterized in terms of sacrilege, but rather as citizens employing their freedom of speech and expression.
As for why effigies to Abraham should be offed, we’re called to consider his condemnation of American Indians:
[O]ur campus sits on Onondaga soil and SU has accommodated that through land acknowledgment and covering a majority of tuition for students from the Haudenosaunee Nations. What we may not know is that Lincoln’s encounters with Native Americans were anything but. In 1862, Lincoln ordered the execution of thirty-eight Dakota natives for rebelling, making it the largest mass execution in our nation’s history. Moreover, although hailed for the Emancipation Proclamation, he was a true product of his time, and had an unbending belief in a racial hierarchy.
The writer laments that “we have all fallen prey” to statues’ “natural presence” — one “that has permeated itself into the roots of our society and legitimized [monuments’] power and oppressive ideology.”
Even so, he’s setting himself apart:
We have grown accustomed to letting these statues speak for us. But this statue does not speak for me.
The article argues we’re living amid “America’s failing democracy,” a time in which we should “avoid tyranny.” Hence, students “must not let these statues dictate [their] thinking.”
Certainly, culture is moving away from Lincoln-ish leanings:
Might the student columnist be — in his own words — a “true product of his time”? Perhaps. He’s certainly correct that contemporary values sometimes seem far from those of Lincoln. One old value is historical knowledge; the University of Illinois Springfield sheds light on the aforementioned mass execution:
In the summer of 1862, Dakota Indians in Minnesota…attacked white men, women, and children along the frontier, killing hundreds and driving over 30,000 from their homes. It was the bloodiest massacre of civilians on U.S. soil prior to September 11, 2001.
After U.S. Army forces under General John Pope put down the rebellion, a military court condemned 303 Dakotas to death. Faced with a potential mass execution, Abraham Lincoln “resolved that such an outrage, as the indiscriminate hanging of these Indians most certainly would be, shall not take place,” according to a Washington newspaper widely regarded as an administration organ. … General Pope reported that white Minnesotans “are exasperated to the last degree.” The “most horrible massacres have been committed; children nailed alive to trees, women violated and then disemboweled – everything that horrible ingenuity could devise.” Therefore, the general warned, “if the guilty are not all executed I think it nearly impossible to prevent the indiscriminate massacre of all the Indians – old men, women, and children.”
After carefully reviewing the army trial records, the president authorized the execution of the thirty-seven Dakotas found guilty of murder and the two convicted of rape, thus sparing the lives of 264 condemned men.
Regardless, The Daily Orange hails democracy and morality:
[W]e have a moral obligation and civic duty to uphold our democratic values.
Thus, away with Lincoln. Plus, the new generation has evolutionarily advanced beyond stupid sculptures. You all used to require those:
Different eras choose different languages in which to communicate — the past’s was statues. We can choose ours. Long gone are the days when people require a statue to express the ideal model one should aspire to.
True; we no longer need statues; now we have TikTok.
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