I have been writing and speaking about the movement to remove statues that range from confederate leaders to Columbus to Supreme Court justices to Founders (here and here and here and here and here). I specifically wrote about the call for the removal of monuments to George Washington and others as the list lengthens of figures to be cleansed from public historical displays. I have a been a critic of this trend.
Despite his other redeeming qualities like seeking to abolish slavery and supporting African Americans in securing positions in government, Native Americans object to the territorial expansion of the United States under McKinley and the mistreatment of Native Americans. He was denounced as a symbol of “settler colonialism” of the period of expansion. Activist Chris Peters screamed “Put a rope around its neck and pull it down.”
As will come as little surprise on this blog, I view this as a wrong-headed and ahistorical decision by the town. As I have discussed in the media, this ever-widening movement to destroy historical monuments is occurring without any real debate or discussion. History is really neat. Historical figures are often deeply flawed individuals who lived in violent and oppressive times. We learn from history not by destroying its images but placing them into context. These are markers that represent the evolution of our society — not just our triumphs but failures.
McKinley, like many early historical figures, had a mixed record including failures. That is the context of such displays and a learning opportunity. He is also one of our presidents who gave his life in office. The picture below was taken just minutes before McKinley was assassinated Leon Czolgosz. Removing his statue is a disservice to him and to history.