California Town Votes To Remove Statue Of William McKinley As Offensive

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.

63 thoughts on “California Town Votes To Remove Statue Of William McKinley As Offensive”

  1. Far from being some liberal conspiracy, the McKinley statue has always been a misplaced ugly monstrosity that has divided people in Arcata because it was an inconveniently large, ugly ,mass of bronze foisted on the town because San Francisco no longer wanted it. McKinley has no connection to the Arcata, other than as a resting place for one of Patigian’s many sculptures.

  2. As someone who studies Russian history, this is familiar territory. First the monuments are toppled, then cities, towns and streets are renamed. Some cities in Russia, Volgograd and St-Peterburg for example, have had three names over a 100-year period. So many street names have changed, one might become confused now if only equipped with a Soviet-era map of Moscow. It is all part of Leftist Lunacy, as if changing a name accomplishes something. What I don’t understand is, why McKinley? It appears he had almost no role in the Indian Wars. Although he was in Congress for part of that period, his interest seems to have centered on trade issues. Either the proponents of removal are poorly informed, or they are so consumed by animus that anything representing the US Government of that era needs, in their minds, to be obliterated. Or maybe they’re just making noise and the cowed local authorities don’t stand up to them.

  3. Why do Native American activists treat McKinley differently than they do, say, the Iroquois who turned the torture and murder of captives into a Dexter episode lasting all day? What about tribes who used firearms to wage wars on rivals? It is wrong to apply anachronistic judgement to the past, and inequitably at that. I love Native American history, and much about their culture. I have to say, however, that none of them followed what would be the Geneva Convention with prisoners. There was good and bad about all peoples. No one stands up the test of time if they are held to current mores. The Bard certainly doesn’t. None of us will stand the test of time. If past predicts future, then there will be actions and opinions we find normal which will be abhorrent 150 years from now. It is sobering to think that any of our accomplishments, art, writings, inventions, or other work of our hands and minds may very well one day be torn down by an outraged mob and lost. What we do today won’t be valued because we cannot see into the future how society will evolve.

    1. Why do Native American activists treat McKinley differently than they do, say, the Iroquois who turned the torture and murder of captives into a Dexter episode lasting all day?

      Because their self-concept, organizing campaigns, and fundraising campaigns depend on false and crude narratives. See ‘Enigma’, who expresses no interest in the black population’s distinctive here-and-now problems and instead chuffers about historical events you cannot alter (Ocoee massacre), improbable events which present themselves at odd times and places (questionable police killings), and fictions (‘voter suppression’) and lies (gerrymandering targeting blacks, when, in fact, legislatures labor under judicial opinions which make anything but max-black districting plans subject to challenge).

      Pretty much all identity politics is toxic. Some people, recall, are making a living at it, and they ain’t going anywhere until the donor money dries up.

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