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Is it time to take down the Whaleman Statue?

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This week ESPN removed Asian-American announcer Robert Lee from covering University of Virginia’s home opener football game “simply because of the coincidence of his name.” Apparently, ESPN thinks he’s a statue and needs to be taken down.

The past few weeks Confederate statues have been covered or taken down in the middle of the night by town/city officials, and the ones that aren’t taken down are being vandalized. Vandals are even burning Abe Lincoln Statues in Chicago.

The oldest known Christopher Columbus statue was vandalized in Baltimore and vandals are even destroying peace statues by mistake.

With the urgent need to appease all those offended by history and scared by inanimate objects, is it time to erase New Bedford’s whaling past? The popular Whaleman statue in New Bedford represents all the hard working whalemen that helped build New Bedford, but doesn’t it also represent tens of thousands of whales killed for oil? Why stop with the whaleman statue?

Just to the other side of the the downtown New Bedford library where the whaleman statue stands is a statue dedicated to Lewis Temple, the African-American man who revolutionized the whaling industry with his toggle iron. That would need to come down too.

Take a trip down William Street to the Whaling Museum and a hanging whale skeleton and museum beckons thousands of visitors each year to New Bedford. That would need to come down also.

To be clear, I’m against removing statues of any kind – especially ones dedicated to whaling. To me it will eventually lead to book burning and erasing America’s past. Philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” By today’s standards, the whalemen would be considered barbarians and murders, but during their time the were respected and helped build New Bedford and once lit the world with precious whale oil.

There is an argument that Confederates didn’t contribute much to America, fought for enslaving millions of Americans and were responsible for a lot of American deaths during the Civil War. This is true, but then what about the statue of Lenin that stands prominently in Seattle? Lenin was the father of Communism which is responsible for over 100 million deaths when people like Mao and Stalin used it to liquidate populations. I despise who and what Lenin stands for, but I’m not about to take down his statue or burn book about him.

Don’t we learn from Hitler’s Mein Kampf? Can you show your kids a Confederate statue and explain to them that the good side won? We pour thousands of school age kids into the New Bedford Whaling Museum and teach them about New Bedford’s history, while also explaining to them that whaling is no longer acceptable. We use our past, no matter how terrible, to teach future generations. Let’s not remove statues, or burn books. Let’s use them as teaching tools so we don’t repeat the mistakes of our past.

About Michael

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15 comments

  1. I agree that we should utilize these monuments for education, but the ones that pay tribute to the Confederacy need to be removed from public property and placed in privately owned areas that will be open to anyone who wishes to view them. Honoring the Confederacy is offensive to many people, especially African-Americans, so no one should be subjected to having to view these monuments on public property.
    As far as the whaling statues go, let’s be real, they represent a legitimate and vital element from a time long ago that didn’t enslave anyone. There’s no valid comparison between the two.

  2. You do not “erase history” by removing statues.
    As the precedent is set by Germany, whose ownership of Hitler and WW2 statues counts to Zero.

    You erase history by not teaching it, by not acknowledging it and not passing on the knowledge to younger generations.

    This has to end now. There is no erasing history, especially in this day and age of internet 2.0. There is putting history in it’s place so one would learn about what they wanted to without putting them on pedestals.

    Whaling itself is historic, what it supplied to many cities is important to remember. However there is no war that was bloody and split a nation over whales.

    I know why this editorial is here, to elevate itself above the facebook scrolls and be seen by a select group of people who might otherwise not see it.

    Whataboutism and logical fallacies, this means that’s, he said she said.

    It’s groveling at the teets of big news organizations for acceptance. Scraping by for anything to be relevant .

    No one is erasing history with the removal of statues.

    Though here is food for thought, Charlottesville was the most ineffective protest in history. Not only are monuments being removed, they are being removed post haste. Kinda not the speed at which a “successful” protest would want eh?

    • You are focused on Confederate statues. Virginia is already planning to rename Jefferson highway. Abe Lincoln is now offensive. The point of the article, lost on many, is where does it end with removing statues? Who decides what is acceptable? Seems that a statue of Vladimir Lenin is acceptable to people in Settle, but replace it with Robert E. Lee and they would lose their mind.

  3. isn’t that lenin statue privately owned and on private land?

    • That’s a good put, but it is still in public view. What if Lenin was replaced with Hitler? The poit of this article is that we either get rid of all “offensive” things or let them all alone. Do you want to live in a world where we allow virtue police to rule from one side of the political spectrum?

  4. This article is intellectually offensive and attempts to make moral equivocations by comparing artifacts with out considering their curtail context and significance. A confederate statue erected during the Jim Crowe era placed outside a court house on public land makes a very specific statement. It was a direct response to civil rights to make people of color feel like they were less than. The Only Removal of history that is happening is your attempt to equate that to a whaling statute.

    • Sorry your intellect couldn’t handle this article. Where do I send the flowers?

      • This is a great article it says things a lot of people are afraid to say. Everyone is so sensitive and can’t wait to play the victim card. I don’t like the signs on route 18 that say I’m going to hell if I don’t go to church but it’s life . Some people have different opinions then me. It doesn’t give me the right to deface it nor do i have that much time on my hands.

      • Touche Michael!!!

      • I think Erik’s reply hit the nail on the head, so do you, which is why you chose to deflect rather than respond. Sadly, this says a little more about you than you’d have us know.

        • He stated his intellect was offended. That’s a weak way to counter a point and is a distraction. I’m a compassionate man and thought, why not repair his damaged soul with some flowers. Is that bad?

  5. This article says things that many are afraid to say. It’s absolutely ridiculous that people think it’s ok to deface property. Everyone is so sensitive now a days it’s absolutely ridicoulas I don’t like the signs on route 18 telling me I’m going to hell if I don’t go to church and sit in the front pew with the sinners but I’m not going to deface it. People have opinions. Life isn’t fair and people really should get used to it and stop being so sensitive. History is important wether good or bad

  6. As a tax payer I don’t want my tax dollars used to idolize statues of people who fought to enslave others. If the statute is paid and maintained with private funds I don’t have a problem with it. Imagine the rage if a statue of Hitler was placed outside one of our government buildings. This is also part of history but it would never happen. We don’t need to idolize symbols of bigotry to learn history.

  7. Come noone wamts to earase our proud and historical pass. We have many. Monuments dedcated to.our pass. Thex liberty bell. Thel Washington monument and many more. But they. Must represent a part of the amercan sprite that li8ves in us today.Their are Men who some thought as horaable but choise to act against the counntry .Benadict Arnould come to mind. Why he betrade his.country men did he do becasue loved hiis men and his country and didnt want to se them zkilled and his country war ravaged perhaps maybe he was man of impeccable honor and cared and lloved his country he betrade themand was willing to scarfice his honor..But he was still a trader and commited treason he may have been hung.He died 8n England. As a disgraced offcer and trader. History has been faorly kindcto him but still their is no Bendict Arnould war memorel sLee may been the same a man of impeccable hounor but he took ip arms agianst the country he loved and took part in the atampt to over thow and distrythis nation.aHe is no war hero hexis a treansist sertpatisted that lost everytbing forchis ill andpoorly made decion That itwhy he apent the restof his days under bouse arrest looking out his wiindow of his Arlington Plantation see thecgraves of men he ordercthe deaths or. (Pleasee mind my typoscim using my phone ans have sauge fingers)

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