Bob Franken



Now that President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, have announced that they’re skipping the Kennedy Center Honors because the honorees were joining the rest of those shunning him, let’s talk about the foolish debate he’s attached himself to: whether to retain those statues that glorify the Confederacy. Because it’s such a foolish debate, I’m not about to call everyone who opposes getting rid of statues of Robert E. Lee and the rest “bigots.” “Insensitive,” yes, but not necessarily bigots. At least not all of them. Many of them are, however — including President Trump, who is aligning himself with the Nazis, Klansmen and other racists who contend that the statues of Lee and others should stay in place to reflect history.
Never mind that it’s the history of slavery, which they fought a deadly civil war to defend. He and Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis and all the “Johnny Reb” soldiers are glorified in bronze and marble instead of vilified, which is what they deserve. They are icons of a blighted American reality that resonates to this day, from slavery to Jim Crow to modern-day prejudice exploited successfully by our demagogue president.
Of course Trump opposed the removal of these icons of hate. “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” he tweeted, “… the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”
Unfortunately, I must respectfully disagree with the president. Oh, let’s be honest, I disrespectfully disagree with this president. They can be “comparably replaced” and could reflect a much more realistic view of U.S. “history and culture.” As these tributes to treason are eliminated, let’s install new ones that depict slavery. They could be works of art that honor the slave being beaten by his white owner with a whip.
And let’s not forget the Jim Crow legacy. That could be symbolized by civil-rights demonstrators being met by Bull Connor and fire hoses. Another statue could depict an African-American prospective tenant being denied an apartment rental by Donald Trump and his father.

Nationwide, there are more than 1,500 monuments to the Confederacy. Here’s how we can get support from President Trump for removing them: Why not make them part of his infrastructure initiative? Remember that one? That was the Trump campaign promise to start a national repair of the disintegrating U.S. foundation — the physical one, not the emotional one — the bridges, highways, water pipes, all the systems that badly need reconstruction. That was always touted as the one program that could get bipartisan support.
Of course it has gone nowhere, dissolved by the same toxic waste that has poisoned the entire Trump presidency. But here’s a chance to revive it. If the removal of the statues and other monuments to the defenders of slavery could become a small part of the program, maybe the entire effort could get support from the administration as well as Democrats.
There is a nagging question, though. What do you do with them? Melt them down or destroy them in nationwide sledgehammer parties? Too risky. Too many people cling to the history of intolerance.
But how about placing them in a Bigots Museum in Washington? We already have the new African-American Museum, but for those who advocate equivalence, we could have another to celebrate hate, such an important part of what makes America what it is today.
The 1,500 statues and monuments would fill much of a Bigots Museum, along with multimedia displays that show racist movies and pictures that range from KKK cross burnings to present-day Nazi marches. Outside? How about a big statue of, you guessed it, Donald Trump. It’s the one place he won’t be shunned.

© 2017 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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