Of Mobs and Monuments

The present fad of monument toppling vividly illustrates the dangers of resorting to force rather than waiting for the process of government, which certainly can be agonizingly slow. Even when street action is initiated by people with good intentions, the forces unleashed inevitably spread beyond those intentions. There are no “controlled burns” in street mobs.

CJLF has not taken a position on the Confederate monument controversy. It is simply beyond our scope, and we watch our scope carefully. Personally, I agree with this column by Eugene Robinson in the WaPo.

Even though a great many people (including me) agree that the Confederate statues should come down, toppling them by a mob is still a crime, and that crime should be prosecuted. Failure to enforce the law breeds contempt for the law. Just look where we are now with the monuments.

Last Friday, the mob tore down and vandalized a number of statues in Golden Gate Park, including one of Ulysses Grant. Of all the people in American history who fought against slavery, Grant is second only to Abraham Lincoln in actually bringing it to an end. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation promising freedom, but Grant commanded the army that transformed the promise into reality.

Kellie Hwang and Mike Massa reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, “Politics seemed incidental to much of the damage.” Some people just want to raise hell and destroy things. Mob action gives them cover to unleash their inner vandals.

And now the mob is threatening to tear down a statue of the Great Emancipator himself, Ted Mann reports in the WSJ. They don’t like the design, which they find paternalistic, and frankly I don’t like it either. But this statue is historic in itself. Freed slaves raised the money for it, and very few of them were wealthy people. Frederick Douglass delivered the dedication address.

I do not think this statue should be removed, but if an elected government decides to remove it, so be it. But absolutely do not let the mob tear it down. Call out the National Guard if necessary. We have already let mobs go too far.