It seems to be lost on a lot of us on the left that the right is taking its cue from us. Our mobs trash their monuments, so their mobs trash ours. The left-wing vandalism and violence against public symbols of the Confederacy that many progressives are cheering on has been followed like night after day by right-wing vandalism and violence against public symbols of democracy like the Capitol. No surprise: When we open the door on destruction, our opponents race through it right behind us.
There’s a reason that a balance is the defining symbol of justice: The law — natural and moral, if not always legal — applies to both sides. We’re right to rectify long-standing racial inequities such as the dearth of Black American iconography in the public square. But when we let frustration and fury drive us to demand retribution by destruction, we’ve moved beyond healing historic wounds to pushing the balance hard toward harm against others — and it’s bound to snap back as harm against us.
Our City Council is poised to entrench that vicious cycle in Asheville by demonizing the obelisk named for Vance as a “Confederate monument” (in contradiction to its builders’ intent) and demolishing it — rather than repurposing our city’s central landmark, as so many citizens are imploring it to do, by updating its name and signage to align with its actual historic role as Asheville’s Washington Monument, a symbol of our unity in diversity.
Bulldozing the historic signpost for our ostensibly tolerant city’s signature free-speech zone under the legal pretense of “public safety” wouldn’t only be an act of shameful (and seemingly unconstitutional) hypocrisy — it would also provoke escalating eye-for-an-eye destruction as white supremacists wreak revenge on the public symbols they demonize.
It’s time to back off from this symbolic civil war before it pulls us into a real one.
— Steve Rasmussen