JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: BOSTON TO REMOVE ITS COPY OF THE LINCOLN EMANCIPATION MEMORIAL – AMERICA’S USE OF LINCOLN AS A KIND OF SAVIOR OR REDEEMER FIGURE TO EXPUNGE THE SHAME OF SLAVERY FROM AMERICAN HISTORY – LINCOLN’S NATURE – WHAT THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION WAS – IF STATUES AND MEMORIALS ARE TO SERVE REMEMBERING THE PAST, THEY MUST BE TRUTHFUL – OTHERWISE THEY ARE JUST ADVERTISING OR PROPAGANDA, WHICH IS THE CASE FOR A GOOD MANY OF AMERICA’S HISTORICAL MONUMENTS – IDEAS FOR GENUINE MEMORIALS ABOUT SLAVERY – AMERICA HAS NEVER DEALT TRUTHFULLY WITH THE SUBJECT – BUT THEN AMERICA HAS NEVER DEALT TRUTHFULLY WITH MUCH OF ITS HISTORY – AMERICA IS A VERY CONSERVATIVE SOCIETY AND IN MANY WAYS RESEMBLES THE TENNESSEE WILLIAMS’ CHARACTER, BIG DADDY, AND HIS LIFE AS “A POUNDING FIST”   Leave a comment

John Chuckman

EXPANSION OF COMMENTS POSTED TO AN ARTICLE IN RUSSIA TODAY

 

“Boston to pull Lincoln emancipation memorial following activist outcry over ‘demeaning’ depiction of freed slave”

 

The statue in Boston (from 1879), a copy of one in Washington (1876), is indeed demeaning. I doubt that it was intended to be so, but that is the insidious nature of prejudice, molding and shaping people’s perceptions.

While handsomely sculpted, it is patronizing. One can almost hear the crouching slave figure saying, Thank ya, Massa.”

Lincoln, an interesting and admirable man in real life, is given the pose of a demigod waving his powerful hand above the crouching slave. See photo:

https://www.rt.com/usa/493428-boston-remove-lincoln-statue/

It is best for this monument to be stored away. If there ever were to be a museum of rejected American historical monuments displayed with clarifying, truthful text about them, this would make a good candidate. But it says absolutely nothing about slavery or, indeed, about Lincoln. It misrepresents a complex and tragic set of events with a simplifying, church-worthy tableau.

It is important to understand that the Emancipation Proclamation was used by Lincoln as a war measure against the South. He hesitated for a while about the idea. He was, remember, a lawyer, a quite successful one who did some of his work in Springfield, Illinois, for corporations such as the Illinois Central Railroad. The War itself was not about slavery, but the Proclamation greatly helped to influence views of it being so, as with European powers.

Lincoln respected the concept of property, although he personally disliked slavery. And laws around property were an important building block of American society. Violating them might have undesirable consequences. There was even an issue of compensation for lost property.

It is a common misconception that Lincoln was an Abolitionist. He was not. That was a misconception shared by the states that seceded to form the Confederacy after Lincoln took office as President.

The Proclamation was not a universal document such as the Bill of Rights. It was carefully crafted to its purpose. A preliminary version was issued in the Fall of 1862, to warn rebelling states about what was coming in 1863, if they did not drop their arms.  None of the Confederate states did so. The Proclamation covered slaves only in rebelling states. Border states, where slavery was practiced, which remained loyal to the Union were exempted. From 1863, If a slave escaped the territory of the Confederacy and made it to Union lines, he or she was deemed permanently free. It is easy to see how that was intended as a weapon

The United States has long used Lincoln as a kind “savior figure” to redeem its vast and shameful history of slavery. A history never adequately acknowledged in any of its political or popular culture. Even many academic texts and biographies treat the subject rather gingerly, with some being plainly dishonest. There are no monuments in Washington to remember slavery itself. None. Instead, the place is littered with monuments to slaveholders like Jackson, Madison, Monroe, Jefferson, and Washington – many a pedestal or wall engraved with words like “liberty.” And when I visited places like Mount Vernon (Washington’s Plantation) many years ago, the slave quarters were literally almost disguised.

The Lincoln Memorial serves as a kind of ersatz slavery memorial – as when Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was delivered from its steps – but it doesn’t really do the job. Lincoln sits in white marble like Zeus on a massive throne in Mount Olympus overlooking the Mall.

What’s needed to memorialize and remember slavery is a huge and agonizingly accurate depiction of, say, a slave auction, where slaves were held bound and often partly stripped to display their physical attributes, of course that included young female slaves being ogled and considered for purchase  by visiting planters who lived in near isolation in the hinterlands.

Or, perhaps better still, a massive, powerful set of figures showing the “gang-system” of field slavery, used on large plantations and developed a while before the Civil War. Men were chained together in long rows or blocks to march through fields as a single unit, almost as human predecessors to large agricultural machines. It was the most brutal form of slavery, but it was economically efficient in its day and it gained widespread acceptance.

There would be several such blocks, one following behind the other, each block having assigned tasks, as from digging holes to seeding and to hoeing, an early version of “division of labor” and specialization of tasks, the reasons for its economic efficiency. Experts have said this system might well have continued into the early 20th century when machines began to appear. Just imagine marching all day chained to others in a sweltery Southern climate and having your pace constantly forced by those to whom you were chained? A genuine nightmare, but a genuine and important piece of American history.

Or you might have a huge bas relief of the top deck of a slaving ship with its human cargo, each individually bound up and arranged like rows of cordwood or rolls of carpet over most of the deck, arranged closely so as to minimize the cost of shipment per human being. Imagine the terrifying situation in a storm or with roaring waves? Many slaves died on the harsh journeys of several thousand miles, slowly powered by sail, their numbers being counted as just part of the cost of doing business. The bodies were tossed overboard.

Such suggestions would memorialize authentic history and give viewers something serious to think about. The existing Emancipation Monument does no such thing. It is benign. It makes viewers feel comfortable about the history. It is redeeming in nature. It even makes Lincoln something he was not. And that is why it is entirely unsuitable. And those descriptions, benign and not informative, fit a great many of the historical monuments in the United States now being challenged by demonstrators.

It is simply a false argument to speak about people forgetting history where there is little or no history to be found.

Although, as I’ve said, Lincoln personally disliked slavery, he was perfectly willing to keep the institution if the rebellion ended. He said so a number of times.

The Emancipation Monument is unpleasant in its tone. Lincoln the standing, suited demigod waving a hand over a nearly-naked, cringing man.

It represents nothing from history. If you want to remember history, it must be truth. Otherwise, you are engaged in propaganda or advertising.

While I am encouraged by some recent developments in America – God, the last state using the Confederate battle flag as part of its state-flag design has finally dropped it – I don’t believe the total changes are likely to be extensive. I would be happy to be proved wrong.

America is a very conservative country, far more so than many recognize. It isn’t just conservative in the sense of party affiliation. No, it is far deeper than that. It is “bred in the bone.” Its entire history has been taken up with expansion and conquest. It resembles Tennessee Williams’ character, Big Daddy, and his life as “a pounding fist.”

 

A FEW RELATED TOPICS WHICH MAY BE OF INTEREST

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https://chuckmanwordsincomments.wordpress.com/2018/01/04/john-chuckman-comment-never-mind-iran-theres-a-vast-and-terrible-history-of-riots-and-quelling-riots-in-americas-past/

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https://chuckmanwordsincomments.wordpress.com/2018/07/12/john-chuckman-comment-original-intent-and-americas-supreme-court-the-concept-is-part-of-the-creed-of-americas-civic-religion-the-supreme-court-has-always-been-conservative-only-varying-i/

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Posted July 1, 2020 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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