Now seems the appropriate time to give my opinion about statues and monuments. We must recall that these artifacts are symbolic in nature. When a statue or monument was erected, it applied an artistic, political, cultural, and societal value to humankind. This structure had a way of speaking to the collective psyche, influencing our thoughts and behaviors. The symbol also had the potential to resonate at the center of our core being.
As with almost everything historical in nature, when society changes over time, so does the value of such constructions. Statues and monuments become outdated and lose the ability to resonate with the human heart. Nevertheless, they also have the ability to tell us an important story which becomes preserved as myth. My favorite writer, Joseph Campbell reminds us that…
“Every myth is psychologically symbolic. Its narratives and images are to be read, therefore, not literally, but as metaphors.”
More frequently than not, some type of ceremony occurs in commemoration of a particular person or event of great significance. Every year we participate in one of these rituals almost always at the site of a memorial.
When we carve something in stone, it furnishes us with a sense of permanency and of something everlasting. This is why many burial sites have a sculpture overseeing the deceased loved one. Human’s have a need to hold on to life as long as they can and cope with death by creating these memorials. Every year, then, they can return to the site to pay their respects and cope with their passing.
The issue is that there are several vantage points on these particular individuals and events that ought to be considered. Especially in the case of a public location. These symbols represent our values in our communities and are meant to bring us together. Statues and monuments remind us to remember our strengths and to recognize the struggle that we have overcome.
Regrettably, it is impossible to capture the viewpoint of all people in a community in such a manner. There will invariably be a divide amongst us based on the fact that we are all unique individuals. Furthermore, we possess a tendency to place people in groups in order to help our minds comprehend where we belong in the world. This generates “winners” and “losers”, “lower” or “upper classes”, and the “strong” compared with the “weak”. Whether intentionally or not this creates conflict and need for change. This is why monuments and statues go up and then come down.
We need to embrace change and realize that nothing is permanent or everlasting in this world. It can be devastating to some when a symbol gets destroyed and rightfully so, but we are alive today and not in the past. We need to let go of the old and make room for the new. This is just a way of life.