A number of statues have been taken down around the United States as people question who ought to be commemorated in bronze and who should go on the scrap heap. I have been interested in this issue and picked up Alex von Tunzelmann’s Fallen Idols:Twelve Statues That Made History(2021) to know more about the phenomenon.
She begins each chapter with the name, location, date of erection and date of removal of the statue. She includes ones from around the world, including Hungary’s Joseph Stalin(up in 1951 down in 1956,) South Africa’s monument to Cecil Rhodes(up in 1934 down in 2015,) and Belgium’s King Leopold II(up in Kinshasa in 1928 down in 1966, but up in Brussels in 1926 and still there.)
Each chapter thoroughly outlines the circumstances surrounding both the placing and the dismantling of each statue. The same discussions seems to take place no matter the location of the tribute, and the author challenges each statement which favors leaving the statue in place. Exploring and refuting the arguments of “the erasure of history,” “the man of his time,” “the importance of law and order,” and “the slippery slope” defense, she ultimately concludes we should simply quit memorializing people in large public bronze objects.
Whether or not you agree with her final conclusion, the author will definitely have given you more than a pat answer to any question about a statue: whether it should go up or if it is time for it to come down.