Is that you, gallantly astride a horse in battle? Or do you stand resolutely for your cause, eyes affixed on the distant future? Are you seated, confined in thought, or are your arms outstretched above the world below?
As a nation devoid of unifying leadership observes the desecration of some of its most cherished and ignored monuments, it struck me that beneath the patina of opportunistic vandalism — which I would rather not condone (the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s monument gets a carve out) — it’s become increasingly difficult for some to stride past the manmade features of our landscape without peering into the soul of the soulless and saying, “Is this who we really are?” With these existential questions exposed to the elements of recent events, imposing figures that had survived undisturbed for decades outside are, all of a sudden, stirring passions inside. The core of our constitutions, personal and national, is being worked out in full view. Side-taking in our warming climate has been an inevitable side-effect. Some of us have heatedly jumped into the fray, others have coldly unmasked opinions from their phones.
But here’s the thing about statues. They are created to stop time. People, on the other hand, are not. And times change. Presumptuous as the notion might be, what might my own statue look like? If time stood still and I was cast in bronze, what would the future say about me and my life’s work? Think I’m just some high-minded jerk? OK, what would the future say about you? I’ll admit, I didn’t draft the Declaration of Independence while also holding slaves, yet I still know that if I am to remain affixed to, or be forcibly removed from, any pedestal a century down the mirage of my road, it will say as much about me as it says about those who render that verdict. In 2020, do any of us have the capacity to reconcile any level of contradiction and moral inconsistency in the ghosts among us or are we headed for absolute purity tests that leave only rubble in their wake?
I believe America can survive the death of some of its dead, but as I observe what’s happening, I am rethinking how the future might weigh in on those living today. I’ll go first. What values do I hold that are simply not gonna stand the test of time? Have I been an agent of greater good or lesser evil? What visions occupy my creativity and intellect, and do I dedicate the necessary energy on imagining a better future for our heirs? What will it take to set those ideas in motion now and to quit waiting for the cavalry to come?
Speaking of horses, there was a time when the might of any army could be measured by them. Times change.
And some days you’re the pigeon,
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