I just read another bunch of letters [July 5, Xpress] discussing some sort of absolution for the destruction of the Vance Monument. I’m glad the conversation is ongoing, as I view the whole debacle as a dismal failure of our leadership’s imagination and governance by turning a lovely piece of civic architecture to rubble because of the nameplate stuck on it.
But the idea that to the original plaque, we should have added another plaque to explain our embarrassment at the name on the first plaque is just goofy, as though Vance and the column were one and the same, that Zeb was somehow inextricably bound with the granite, his sins (wicked and aplenty) intrinsically inseparable from the stone, and all we can think to do is either tear the thing down or dedicate it to our shame and guilt, letting him haunt us forever.
The obelisk wasn’t the problem.
Vance was the problem.
The simple fact is that it was only so dedicated because somebody in City Hall signed a proclamation, and a work crew went across the square and attached said nameplates to the shiny new spire. It would have taken no more effort to repeat the process.
(I’m certainly not saying we should erase Vance and his awful deeds from our memory. But we should have booted him the hell off our most important civic edifice. An awesome structure like that needs to celebrate and liberate. Not wag a finger at us and trap a despicable old traitor within the rock where he can eternally infect our town square.)
So, dear city leaders, pen the decree, put the obelisk back up and summon the workers to remove the old plaques, grind them to gravel and affix some new ones. It’s not like we don’t have an abundance of deserving candidates: Isaac Dickson, Oscar Wong, Terry Bellamy, Emöke B’Racz, Bascom Lunsford, Floyd McKissick, Warren Haynes, world peace … there’s a start. I know you can add some more. Pick one. Pick four, one per side. Attach. Then throw a big party on the square, reveal the new honoree(s), and we’ll sing and dance and celebrate our exorcism and reborn civic mojo.
To have destroyed a handsome landmark like ours because of some foul graffiti on its base is a crime against our blessed city. Asheville is better than that. And we deserve the monument to prove it.
— Mark Wilson