Craig Ladwig is editor of the quarterly Indiana Policy Review. His column appears in Indiana newspapers.
Now that New Orleans has rid itself of Robert E. Lee, et al., it surely must be Fort Wayne’s turn. How long can it be, given the new rules of acceptable statuary, before someone smashes Gen. Anthony Wayne to smithereens?
For if political correctness is the measure, Mad Anthony is high on the list of marble and bronze undesirables. Consider for starters that the general's only recorded words at the Battle of Fallen Timbers were, “Bayonet the devils.”
Lee, though, was a rebel in name only, having been educated at West Point and having freed his family’s slaves well before the Civil War. Nor is it recorded that Lee ever spoke disparagingly of blacks, something that cannot be said of Gen. Ulysses Grant or even the beloved Abe Lincoln.
General Lee was emphatic that slavery was “a moral and political evil” and believed that American slaves would be freed one day, war or no war. His decision to join the Confederacy was based on his conviction that states should be sovereign over the central government. It was the conviction of a patriot and a warrior, one with which softer men are free to disagree from the safe distance of six generations.
In any case, our Tom Huston suggested some time ago that there are simpler remedies for statue angst than requiring us “to change letterheads, redo maps and cram history down the memory hole.” He made the point that if the key issue for General Lee was the right of secession then that was settled decisively by military action.
It is important to know, Huston continued, that those most intimately involved with that catastrophe (620,000 deaths, 2 percent of the population) decided the better course was reconciliation rather than retribution. It is hard to imagine there now is a more compelling case for umbrage.
Nonetheless, it can be assumed that Fort Wayne’s Tom Henry, a like-minded mayor of serious liberal sensitivities (a champion of LGBT rights who welcomed Obama-vetted Syrians to his city) will not sit on the sidelines when it comes to statuary reform. There already has been talk of moving Mad Anthony to a more suitable site.
“Liberals are remarkably good at playing pretend,” Huston explained. “If you can believe a woman has a penis, then you can believe just about anything.” And Anthony Wayne does not present as many challenges of nuance as Robert E. Lee. Mad Anthony was not so much interested in protecting the rights of states as following orders to kill as many of the enemy as possible and to take possession of their land, specifically the rich hunting grounds of Ohio.
Did the general ever speak disparagingly of a minority group? ... Well, not that we know of, other than the bayoneting thing. But given the tenor of our times, it is right to ask Mayor Henry why the statute is still standing tall in Friemann Square.
To be sure, there will be the insensitive who complain that history is more complex than modern social posers can grasp. Chief Little Turtle and his army at Fallen Timbers were not indigenous innocents, it will be said. They had chosen to fight on after their side lost the War of Independence, and at the time of battle were in compact with the British, who maintained fortresses in the area in violation of the Treaty of Paris.
They will not prevail.
“The idea is that by erasing historic memory and reimagining the past, you affirm your commitment to equality and your opposition to racial discrimination,” Huston concluded. “The logic is impeccable if you are a self-righteous, pandering wuss.”