The now-rescinded order warned of “dangerous anti-American extremism” and stated that the garden would be “America’s answer to this reckless attempt to erase our heroes, values and entire way of life.”
In addition to seminal political and historical figures, Trump’s garden would have included an array of high-profile individuals like basketball player Kobe Bryant, “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek and legendary baseball pitcher Cy Young.
Biden also struck down Trump’s order that would have denied federal funding to state and local governments that refused to protect existing monuments. That order aimed at cities that had police stand aside as the protesters vandalized and destroyed statues.
In particular, Biden has departed from Trump in his handling of the racial justice issues that were a fixture of political discussions across the country for much of last year and his approach to law enforcement.
Killing Trump’s sculpture garden is a highly symbolic gesture for Biden as little concrete work had been done to bring it to fruition since it was announced last year, outside of naming the people designated for inclusion.
Destroying a statue is an empty, symbolic gesture. To be effective, the destruction should have included erasing the name of the historic personage honored with a statue from the history books. It should have been forbidden to write or speak their name.
The Egyptians were very good at that sort of thing. They went so far as to chisel over the names of pharaohs they wanted to cancel on monuments and public buildings. But the masters of historical cancelation were the Soviet Union’s Communists. They not only erased the offending name from books but forbade uttering the name in public.
It never worked very well.
The problem with trying to cancel history is that it’s already happened. No matter how hard you try, you can’t erase an event that’s become part of the historical record. Besides, the mindless destruction of works of art calls to mind the worst excesses of the Nazis. There is also an aesthetic element to be considered, independent of any historical significance.
It doesn’t get much uglier than destroying beauty to surrender to passion.
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