“Vandals”


 

Interesting priorities. This news item is from the reliably-reactionary Washington Times:

Vandals spray-painted “Black Lives Matter” and other racial messages on a memorial honoring fallen Confederate soldiers in the South Carolina community still rocked by a church shooting last week that left nine black people dead.

“Black Lives Matter” in red spray paint covered the inscription on the base of the statue, which honors the “Confederate Defenders of Charleston” who died at Fort Sumter, Yahoo News reported.

Oh no, vandals. The horror. And on a memorial to soldiers who fought for the slave-owning Confederacy, too – the horror the horror. The soldiers were “fallen” so it is not permissible to point out that they were fighting for the slave states. Once fallen, always heroic.

I’m not sure “vandals” is the right word to use here. It’s not unlike calling freedom riders “trespassers” or protesters “thugs.”

Comments

  1. Morgan says

    Vandals spray-painted “Black Lives Matter” and other racial messages on a memorial honoring fallen Confederate soldiers in the South Carolina community still rocked by a church shooting last week that left nine black people dead.

    As if the messages had been white supremacist slogans to make people fear further attacks.

  2. latsot says

    Yeah. it turns out that people actually do have to explain to other people that black lives matter.

    Write it on a wall. Write it on every wall. Write it on my walls, inside and out if you like. Write it wherever it can’t be crossed out. Write it even more where it *can* be crossed out.

  3. Blanche Quizno says

    People are real funny about their privilege. When I mentioned on an online forum that I often cross out the “God” of “In God We Trust” on paper money and write in, oh, either “US” or “Humanity” or “Science” or “Reason” instead, I was accused of vandalism. Yes, that’s right – vandalism O_O Teh horreur

  4. PatrickG says

    Yeah, that “other racial messages” really jumps out. Must have been things like “Kill Whitey” or “Go Back To Europe”. Obviously.

  5. rjw1 says

    Weren’t those Americans who fought in the War of Independence against the British defending a slave-owning oligarchic Republic? To be consistent the previous commenters would have to support the defacement of memorials to those who died in such imperialist wars as Vietnam and Iraq. Perhaps they do.

  6. PatrickG says

    @rjw1:

    There is a vast difference between memorializing the dead and memorializing the cause. The Civil War entailed a horrific loss of life, which should be remembered. However, memorials should not celebrate the evil cause in service of which the Confederacy fought. Bridges and streets should not be named after those who sunk this nation into war to preserve slavery. Politicians and citizens should not be celebrating this Lost Cause while working to disenfranchise the descendants of people their ancestors went to war to keep enslaved.

    If the Vietnam memorial said “We’d do it again, because napalm is awesome and if we’d stayed longer Vietnam wouldn’t be Communist today!”, I’d absolutely support the defacement of that memorial. But it doesn’t, it simply commemorates the dead and is rather neutral on any other topic (not least, noting that Vietnam is not Communist today). The dead matter, not the lying cause.

    If a (hypothetical) Iraq memorial said “We’d do it again, because our leaders didn’t lie to us and we totally found WMDs!”, I’d absolutely support the defacement of that memorial. The dead matter, not the lying cause.

    This is a memorial celebrating those who attacked first at Fort Sumter to start a civil war (or, if you want to be weaselly, died later trying to prevent it being retaken). It sits under a Confederate Flag symbolizing racial terror that continues to this day. It sits in a city bursting to the seams with celebration of crime and treason in defense of slavery. It sits in a state whose legacy of toxic racism is a matter of public record and history. It sits in a nation where so many people deny any racism exists at all (unless it’s towards white people!), while turning a blind eye to police brutality, the suppression of voting rights, and systemic economic inequality.

    The dead matter, but too many Americans still believe in that lying cause. That memorial, in all the context noted above, says “Slavery and racism rule! We were right, and we’d do it again in a heartbeat!”. I don’t even have to infer this — we have politicians from multiple states who are still campaigning on racist brutality and yes, even secession!

    So do try to be a bit more clear on just what this vandalism was actually trying to point out. You seem to think it’s strictly about mocking the dead of the past. If that were true, I’d feel quite differently. But clearly, it’s not about mocking the dead. It’s about drawing attention to the suffering of the present, and how the living are still deeply wedded to an evil cause.

    Have a nice day.

  7. rjw1 says

    @6PatrickG

    (1) “There is a vast difference between memorializing the dead and memorializing the cause.”

    Agreed, however the dividing line is not so easily discerned and it rather depends on one’s perspective doesn’t it? Particularly if it’s not from the US. The view of the Vietnamese and the other long-suffering people of Indo China on the ethical justification for the Vietnam war might be rather different. So any memorial to America’s dead could be regarded in the same way as you see a memorial to Confederate soldiers.

    (2) “noting that Vietnam is not Communist today). The dead matter, not the lying cause.”
    I’m not sure what you mean by that statement because the same self-perpetuating oligarchy still governs Vietnam today despite the millions killed by the US and the toxic chemical legacy.
    How does a lack of intention to re-commit such atrocities make the US invasions of Vietnam and Iraq less morally repugnant.

    (3)”Politicians and citizens should not be celebrating this Lost Cause while working to disenfranchise the descendants of people their ancestors went to war to keep enslaved.”

    Agreed, now if only Americans could apply that principle to their government’s uncritical support of Zionism.

    (4) “but too many Americans still believe in that lying cause.”

    You’ve explained the political context and I’m not in a position to dispute that assertion since I’m not an American. My brother visited the Southern US 40 years ago and was amazed at the open display of Confederate flags on public and private buildings, I had no idea that such a culture still existed in 2015. So I’ll concede that some people in America’s South are attempting to defend the indefensible.

  8. says

    rjw1,

    Read up on Reconstruction. The US was about as successful at building a free , stable society for everyone in the South following the Civil War as we have been at rebuilding societies in Afghanistan or Iraq.

  9. PatrickG says

    @ rjw1:

    Trying once more: The equivalent is if we built a monument to Agent Orange in Hanoi, or if we throw up a statue of Bush with a “Mission Accomplished” banner in Baghdad. Does that make it any clearer? The Confederate memorials are analogous to that — celebration in the place where slavery was celebrated and defended, with a poisonous legacy reaching down to this day. I don’t think vandalism is an inappropriate response to that — particularly vandalism directly intended to draw attention to related and ongoing injustice.

    Please note that I’m restricting myself to a discussion of the vandalism (i.e. the OP). I’m really not interested in derails.

  10. rjw1 says

    @9PatrickG,

    “I don’t think vandalism is an inappropriate response to that — particularly vandalism directly intended to draw attention to related and ongoing injustice.”

    OK, so your argument is that any monument is fair game, or is it only specific ones, or vandalism committed by individuals whose cause you agree with? I can understand why you want to exclude the ‘derailments’.

  11. PatrickG says

    I’m afraid I can’t provide you with a handy flowchart as to when I, personally, find vandalism completely excusable.

    Before I spend more time on this: do you think this vandalism was “fair game”? If not, why not?

  12. rjw1 says

    @11PatrickG
    “I’m afraid I can’t provide you with a handy flowchart as to when I, personally, find vandalism completely excusable”

    You’re dissembling.

    .”do you think this vandalism was “fair game”? If not, why not?”

    I can’t see the point of vandalising public buildings.

  13. PatrickG says

    Dissembling. An interesting accusation, given that I’ve pretty clearly laid out why I think vandalism was, in this case, an act of warranted civil disobedience.

    I can’t see the point of vandalising public buildings.

    Just because I draw the line somewhere different than you do doesn’t give you the right to fling around accusations of lying. I mean, I’m tempted to say you value property more than actual people, but hey, surely you couldn’t have meant that.

  14. rjw1 says

    @13PatrickG,

    “Just because I draw the line somewhere different than you do doesn’t give you the right to fling around accusations of lying.”

    Agreed, it doesn’t.
    To clarify, I wasn’t accusing you of lying, just avoiding making a clear statement, ‘to dissemble’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘to lie’.

    Perhaps we should agree to differ and leave it at that.

  15. PatrickG says

    If you don’t want to accuse people of lying, you really shouldn’t use the world “dissemble”:

    verb (used with object), dissembled, dissembling.
    1. to give a false or misleading appearance to; conceal the truth or real nature of:
    to dissemble one’s incompetence in business.
    2. to put on the appearance of; feign:

    I’ll agree to leave it here.

  16. latsot says

    @Blanche I never don’t want to cross out the picture of the queen on our bank notes. The person currently called “queen” doesn’t make our bits of paper worth money, it’s the other way around.

  17. John Morales says

    PatrickG, I here unsolicitedly interject merely to note that I believe that rjw1 intends to refer to some sense of evasiveness rather than to dissemblance.

    I also note that rjw1 went to the trouble of enumerating four propositions and their basis, none of which you bothered to address.

    (In this case, charity meets plausibility, but neither meet you)

  18. PatrickG says

    Personally, John, I thought I was extremely plausible in my responses. I specifically used examples based on rjw’s comments; thus, I did not appreciate the open-ended questions attempting to bound my position somewhere between ‘Any building, any time’ and ‘No building, at no time’, with the middle ground being ‘Only buildings I don’t like’. If I was “evasive”, it was because it did not appear to me that rjw was seriously considering my position before responding.

    For the record, my standard for civil disobedience, particularly vandalism, is high. I don’t have a ready-made standard (see flowchart) for every act of civil disobedience in every circumstance; at most, I have some guiding principles that permit evaluation of particular acts, which I think I more than at least hinted at above.

    But you know, sure, maybe I was uncharitable. I’d had variants of this conversation at least ten times already, with people of demonstrably bad faith (I’m beginning to really hate Facebook, incidentally), and I was probably a little testy. I’ll cop to that, and if rjw is still reading and feels I inappropriately understood them, I’d be happy to discuss my position further.

    But, John, really? This?

    some sense of evasiveness rather than to dissemblance.

    If they didn’t want to imply dissemblance, then they should have not used the word dissemble. Christ, John. It’s not uncharitable of me to read a word as written. Seriously, my face and my palm can’t take much more of this.

    Does this post make my position more “plausible” to you, John? Or do you just want to come in and sneer all over the carpet again?

  19. John Morales says

    Yes, PatrickG @18, really that: “To clarify, I wasn’t accusing you of lying, just avoiding making a clear statement […]”.

  20. rjw1 says

    @19 John Morales,

    Yes I agree, however we’re never going to get an acknowledgement. Of course there’s a considerable difference between lying and concealing the truth, ask Sir humphrey.
    Perhaps we could revisit this discussion if ISIS demolishes Palmyra.

  21. John Morales says

    Not really, rjw1.

    (Intent and merit aside, destruction is categorically different to superficial defacement)

  22. PatrickG says

    @ John: The clarification came after I’d responded. I merely responded with pointing out that “dissembling” is a really loaded word to use if one doesn’t want to be perceived of accusations of lying. You’ve chosen to interpret that in the worst possible light. Possibly my dictionary citation contributed to that? In any case, it’s your right to judge me as you see fit. It’s my right to call you a horse’s ass and completely ignore you from here on out until you desist in that behavior.

    In short, your principle of charity is highly selective, and I see no need to take such accusations from you seriously.

    @ rjw1: I’ll repeat:

    I was probably a little testy. I’ll cop to that, and if rjw is still reading and feels I inappropriately understood them, I’d be happy to discuss my position further.

    To be very explicit: I’m quite willing to acknowledge that I misread you. I’m definitely aware that my writing style comes across as abrasive (see my response to John Morales, for instance!). I’ve also indicated that I had previously interacting with people as dishonest as apparently as I am(!), and said that had influenced my responses to you. If you’re interested in dialogue, I’m willing to try again.

    However, I’m not particularly interested in further discussions of my alleged venality re: “concealing the truth”. If you’re going to continue in that vein (“never going to get an acknowledgment”, for instance), I’ll write you off a la John Morales and get on with my life.

  23. rjw1 says

    @22 PatrickG

    “to be very explicit: I’m quite willing to acknowledge that I misread you.”

    Thanks, obviously, with the benefit of hindsight, I should have chosen another term, I never would accuse anyone of lying unless I had supporting evidence.

    I’m also willing to acknowledge that I rather naively commented on a cultural context that I misunderstood, I really had no idea of the current situation in the Southern US.

  24. PatrickG says

    Thanks for that. I will at some point soon try to answer your question I (somewhat flippantly, I admit. Sorry!) dismissed with my flowchart response. Not convenient at the moment, but I do see some value in responding, if only to force myself to define my own terms. Which are, as I’ve said, somewhat imprecise at the moment. :)

    Will return later.

    P.S. John Morales, take a note. As I see it, both rjw1 and I are being both charitable and plausible. I preemptively acknowledge that I’m sometimes petty, however.

  25. PatrickG says

    @ rjw1: As promised, getting back to you. Work is crushing, so I’ll start out small and we can go from there. :)

    A while back, you wrote:

    so your argument is that any monument is fair game, or is it only specific ones, or vandalism committed by individuals whose cause you agree with?

    I think this is a slightly inaccurate frame to use for my argument.

    Basically, I’m approaching this from a civil disobedience framework, in which:
    * A definable, real injustice exists
    * Lawful, or socially acceptable, mechanisms, have failed to address those injustices.
    * An act of civil disobedience is designed to draw attention to that failure

    Obviously this is a very simple model, and obviously it’s very vague, but it’s how I approach this topic. In this case, we’re discussing vandalism of a monument. I’d argue that any monument is theoretically “fair game” if:
    * The injustice is real and ongoing
    * The monument is directly relevant to the injustice
    * The vandalism is not idle (terrible word choice, but best I’m coming up with at the moment), in that it directly promulgates an on-point message protesting the specific injustice.

    So I guess I can actually call this a flowchart, after all. Or at least a process-control checklist. My mistake! So, since it can be done that way, let’s do it that way.

    ==================
    PatrickG’s Justified Monument Vandalism Test™®©
    Test = function(Injustice, Monument, Act of Vandalism)
    All variables must be fully defined.

    Is Injustice Real and Ongoing?
    Y: Proceed.
    -> Example: historical oppression of African-Americans in the United States.
    N: Stop.
    -> Example: your local sports franchise just won/lost a big game.

    Is Monument On Topic?
    Y: Proceed.
    -> Example: statue celebrating Tillman, noted lyncher, symbol of specified injustice
    N: Stop.
    -> Example: statue celebrating South Carolina’s citrus products, is not symbol of specified injustice.

    Is Vandalism On Point?
    Y: Proceed
    -> Example: “Black Lives Matter” on statue of noted lyncher, directly relates to specified injustice and concept celebrated by monument is on topic.
    N: Stop.
    -> Example: “Tillman’s Mother Was An *expletive*, not directly related to specified injustice, even though the concept celebrated by monument is on topic.

    Did You Reach The End?
    Congratulations! Your act of vandalism has been approved by some random dude on the internet, though he might still make snarky comments about your technical skill with a paint can, depending on the circumstances.

    ==================

    This is of course a very subjective process, in terms of defining the injustice, “on topic”, and “on point”, which is why I call it PatrickG’s Justified Monument Vandalism Test™®©. It’s mine, and mine alone. Other people will clearly have their own frameworks for evaluating events.

    I spent more time on this than I really had, and I’ve got a set of meetings coming up. Back to work!

  26. rjw1 says

    @25PatrickG,

    I’m a retired accountant so, of course, I was interested in seeing your flowchart.

    Thanks for the clarification.

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