That’s now happened in Charlottesville, where a court has finally concluded that the statues of Lee and Jackson in their war uniforms on their war horses are war monuments.
People outside of Charlottesville will of course be scratching their heads and wondering what that matters. But that’s because nobody has bothered to tell them why Trump’s favorite statues are still standing and what it means.
The state of Virginia forbids taking down war monuments. The Heroes of the Resistance refrain from criticizing such hyper-militaristic laws. This means that we have a war-mad society, and that it goes unchallenged. The wars of recent years blow back into the streets of Charlottesville in the form of racist violence, but Charlottesville has spent the past many months telling itself that war is not the problem.
The thinking of the statues’ opponents seems to go something like this. The war statues of Lee and Jackson were put up by racists for racist purposes, long after the war, and we want them down for anti-racist purposes despite our deep respect and love for war; therefore these war statues are not war statues, and the only problem within sight of these hills is racism.
There’s a hill nearby set aside for the CIA to hide in after a decision has been secretly made 100 miles away to destroy the earth with nuclear weapons. Charlottesville has a mine-resistant vehicle but no mines. Charlottesville police stroll armed and wearing bullet-proof vests up and down the Downtown Mall, from which on the anniversary of the fascist rally last summer the City banned any and all weaponry except guns. The City invests its public dollars — OUR public dollars — in such public services as Boeing, Honeywell, and Exxonmobil. Dick Cheney met with Exxonmobil to plan the war on Iraq; he didn’t meet with you or me. Boeing gives Saudi Arabia the means to kill people generally not labeled “white.” War problem? What war problem? We ain’t got no stinking war problem!
What we need to do is just take down the racist war monuments. We can leave up all the other ones. This has been the refrain for getting on toward two years now. But take an open-eyed walk around Charlottesville, and you’ll soon spot the difficulty this position runs into.
Charlottesville has a big memorial to the war on Vietnam (and Laos and Cambodia) that killed millions of people most commonly referred to during the process of slaughtering them as “gooks.” Charlottesville, or rather the University of Virginia, proudly displays a monument to World War I, a war explicitly and shamelessly marketed by alumnus Woodrow Wilson’s propaganda crew as a war against the evil race of “Huns.” There are various monuments to the genocide against Native Americans. There are plaques on UVA’s Rotunda memorializing wars right up through the recent wars against “Hadji.”
In other words, let me scream this yet again, neither for the first nor the last time: RACIST WAR is just a long-winded way of saying WAR. You can’t order masses of people to murder human beings. They won’t do it. It’s bad enough having them discover what they’ve done after the fact. War requires racism. War breathes racism. War secretes racism.
That a particular side of a particular war has fallen out of favor and been labeled unacceptable by society doesn’t make it any more or less a war. That bizarre notion is how you end up with a government arming “moderate” murderers in Syria or destroying Libya to save it from the Libyans or starving Venezuela, in whose embassy I am writing this, to spread human rights.
Let’s try to get this straight at long last. Mass murder is evil. Militarism, along with racism and extreme materialism, must be ended. And it must be ended along with racism and extreme materialism. That’s the only way to end any of the evil triplets. The state of Virginia still murders people, for godsake — calls it “capital punishment.” It gives guns and oil pipelines more rights than human beings. It bans the removal of public war propaganda. And it no doubt thinks of U.S. wars as being waged against backward places.
Of course, Virginia does not ban the removal of peace monuments. It also doesn’t ban the creation of peace monuments. If Charlottesville doesn’t love blood, if I’m libeling its good name, why does it not have a monument to peace anywhere on its cityscape?