Confederate statues should go, but Founders should stay, Biden says
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July 2, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Former Vice President and current Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden partially broke from the elements of his base demanding the elimination of monuments to various American historical figures, endorsing the removal of Confederate generals while drawing the line at America’s Founding Fathers.
“The idea of comparing whether or not George Washington owned slaves or Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, and somebody who was in rebellion committing treason trying to take down a union to keep slavery, I think there’s a distinction there,” Biden said Tuesday, The Hill reports. “The idea of bringing down all those Confederate monuments to Confederate soldiers and generals who strongly supported secession and maintaining slavery and going to war to do it, I think those statues belong in museums, they don’t belong in public places.”
“I think with regard to those statues and monuments, like the Jefferson Memorial, there’s an obligation that the government protect those monuments because they’re different,” Biden continued. “That’s a remembrance, it’s not dealing with revering somebody who had that view. They had much broader views. They may have had things in their past that were now and then distasteful, but that’s a judgment.”
“I can understand the anger and anguish that people feel by having for years and years been under the statue of Robert E. Lee if you’re an African American,” the vice president went on. “It’s always better to do it peacefully … the elected officials where those statues are have a responsibility to remove, put them in museums. Get them down … and don’t be surprised if someone pulls down the statue of Jefferson Davis. It’s better that they do not, but it’s fundamentally different than … grabbing Jefferson off his chair.”
Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests began in the United States at the end of May, following the death of Minnesota man George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer. The demonstrations started as a call to act against police brutality, but quickly morphed into a broader condemnation of America’s alleged “systemic racism,” expanding into issues such as commemoration of “problematic” historical figures in art, sculpture, and location names.
The people who have torn statues down from public property are nothing less than “the armed militia of the Democratic Party,” “working to overthrow our system of government,” Fox News host Tucker Carlson said last week. “They know nothing... They say they oppose racism, and then they rip down monuments to abolitionists. They don't see the contradiction in that because they have no idea who the abolitionists were. They think it's a band from the 80s.”
While the Confederacy’s secession from the United States was indeed rooted in large part in the desire to preserve slavery, its military officers often had a more complicated relationship to the issue, with their service perceived as fulfilling a duty to defend their homes rather than slavery. Further, many monuments to Southern generals were erected not as celebrations of secession or slavery, but were allowed as gestures of peace during the postwar Reconstruction period.
As for the Founders, many of them did own slaves (while at the same time making provisions to free them when possible). But they also despised the institution of slavery, and while they were unable to abolish it outright in the nation’s infancy (during which pressing the issue would have shattered the union between northern and southern states), they consciously laid the groundwork for its eventual abolition in crafting the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution’s principles of human equality and individual liberty.
It’s not just statues of Confederate generals or the Founding Fathers that are being targeted, though; BLM activists have also set their sights on religious statues. Rioters have pulled down and desecrated statues of St. Junipero Serra in San Francisco and Los Angeles, after local authorities in Los Angeles approved the removal of another of his statues outside Ventura City Hall.
There is also an effort to remove a statue of St. Louis IX, the only French king to be canonized a Catholic saint, in St. Louis, Missouri.
Shaun King, a leading voice in the BLM movement, has called for the destruction of images and statues of a “white” Jesus and Mary his mother. Another Black Lives Matter activist recently used social media to call on mobs and rioters to protest a Catholic parish in San Diego, saying that the “white” parishioners did not think black lives mattered and they were “staunch” Trump supporters.
Biden’s remarks appear to be an effort to straddle a fine line between his party’s increasingly far-left base and the moderate Americans he needs to vote for him. And while he disavowed the anti-statue movement’s harshest extremes, he has also endorsed BLM’s underlying indictment of the United States.
“Systemic racism” is “not just in law enforcement, it’s across the board. It’s in housing, and it’s in education, and it’s in everything we do,” Biden told CBS News last month. “Look, not all law enforcement officers are racist. My lord, there are some really good, good cops out there. But the way in which it works right now is — we’ve seen too many examples of it.”
In fact, research shows that police are not disproportionately likely to use excessive lethal force against black suspects.