02:52:05 pm on
Wednesday 19 Jun 2024

A Bad Comparison
AJ Robinson

The Thinker (1902) by Auguste Rodin.

I saw an article in the Orlando Sentinel, our local newspaper, the other day. It got my blood pressure up. Once again, the news story invoked the false equivalency that taking down Confederate statues meant we should also remove ones of Lincoln, Grant and other notable figures of American history.

Okay, let's play that game, shall we?

Yes, Lincoln and Grant, not to mention Andrew Jackson, engaged in terrible acts against the natives of our country. The Trail of Tears remains as a truly dark stain on our history. Grant also had one of the most corrupt presidential administrations in history. As I recall, many other famous men of our nation were less than stellar in their actions.

Washington not only owned slaves, he also fought for the British prior to the Revolutionary War. Jefferson had slaves, but not need to end with him. Edison was a terrible husband and father, a tough businessperson and forced his employees to work under dangerous and unhealthy conditions. Oh, and forget about full benefits at his company; they didn’t even get dental, let alone health insurance, which would have been a real plus considering the chemicals and dangerous devices they worked with on a daily basis.

Walt Disney had his faults and Lewis Carroll liked to take pictures of naked little girls! There were never any charges of improper behavior regarding Carroll; still, would we approve of that today. Shall we pull all his books from the shelves, stop watching Disney films and boycott the theme parks?

While we're at it, what can we conclude of Euclid, Aristotle and other ancient Greek thinkers? They were pagans! So what if they laid the foundations of math, science and democracy? Babe Ruth was quite the heavy drinker and Ray Charles did drugs and had illegitimate children.

I could go on, but I think I've made my point. If you're looking for heroes who are one hundred percent pure, I can think of only two: Jesus and Superman. Even then, Superman wore tights.

Benedict Arnold was not always a traitor.

On the other hand, why don't we have statues of Benedict Arnold? Sure, he was a traitor, but prior to his treason, he did many good things during the Revolutionary War. He captured Fort Ticonderoga and was instrumental at the Battles of Saratoga, to name only two heroic acts. What did someone like Jefferson do? Well, let's see, here are just three acts of Jefferson worth mentioning: writing the Declaration of Independence, writing the statute of Virginia for religious freedom and founding the University of Virginia.

Washington, Adams, Jefferson and all the Founding Fathers were well-to-do men, successful and leaders in their respective colonies. They didn’t try to destroy the British Empire. They wanted to break free of it to found a new nation, and doing so meant risking all that they possessed.

The Confederacy, however romantically we like to look back on it or view the warriors as noble, there is still that simple fact that they sought to shatter our nation to preserve the institution of slavery. No matter how you dress that up, it will always leave a sour taste in the mouth.

To be fair to every historical figure, we have to judge their lives in their totality. Now, I'm not saying we should erase people like Lee and other notable individuals from our collective memory, merely put them in the proper perspective. Let them be part of our history, let private individuals and groups honor them as they wish, but when it comes to our public places, let us reserve them for those individuals who distinguished themselves by doing the most good for the greater good.

The founding fathers of the USA were not demigods.

Oh, and let's remember what Benjamin Franklin said of our founders. They were not demigods. They were men, no more no less, which meant they were full of all the virtues and vices of mere mortals.


Combining the gimlet-eye of Philip Roth with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Working, again, as an engineeer, after years out of the field due to 2009 recession and slow recovery, Robinson finds time to write. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true. His teen vampire adventure novel, "Vampire Vendetta," will publish in 2020. Robinson continues to write books, screenplays and teleplays and keeps hoping for that big break.

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