News About the Shaw Memorial

Yesterday I learned from various sources that someone had thrown yellow paint upon the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in Boston, Massachusetts.  The memorial stands on Beacon Street across from the Massachusetts State House; Boston Commons opens to the south of it.

For a few reports, you can click here, here, here (video) and here.  For a report on the person accused of the act, one can go here.

Of particular interest is the report that the person accused of committing the act did so because she believed the monument was historically inaccurate.  That recalled in my mind the actions taken by several people along Richmond’s Monument Row late last year, because in that instance as well one could argue that the actions were motivated by a challenge to the supposed historical narrative embodied in the monument.  I say supposed because, after all, those who acted against these monuments also made assumptions about what they meant to others, and they wanted to challenge that assumed meaning.  That distinguishes these acts from other acts of vandalism against other monuments, where motivation varies (leading one to ask whether all acts of vandalism are equal … I’ve heard arguments both ways).

What should one make of this, if anything?  What questions would you ask?


10 thoughts on “News About the Shaw Memorial

  1. Andy Hall August 1, 2012 / 3:29 pm

    I keep waiting for the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War to issue a press release condemning this as an act of “cultural genocide” against their heritage. So far, nothing.

    I still challenge the notion, though, that the plaques affixed to the fences surrounding the monuments in Richmond last year were “vandalism,” which to me suggests actual, physical damage to monument. Whoever put those plaques up went to a lot of trouble to do it in a way, using clamps and bolts, that didn’t actually do physical harm to the monuments in question, any more than hanging a banner from the fence would have. It would have been a whole lot cheaper and easier to use a spray can and a sledge hammer, but the folks in Richmond went to a lot of extra trouble and expense not do that. (If the homemade plaques in Richmond were “vandalism,” then this bit of foolishness is, too.) I’m sure Susan Hathaway and the Virginia Fraggers would disagree, but to me that effort witht he plaques actually shows a certain amount of respect for the monuments and their place in Richmond, if not for the message they convey.

    By most accounts, the woman in Boston has a history of mental issues and was allegedly “off her meds” when she splashed paint on the monument. Sadly, this sort of vandalism is all too common, against both Union and Confederate monuments, and indeed against all sorts of historical markers and cemetery monuments. It would be nice if we could all treat these for what they are, acts of vandalism that should be investigated for the criminal acts they are, rather than puffed up as some broader, invidious conspiracy against people who choose to wallow in perennial victimhood.

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 1, 2012 / 3:35 pm

      Never underestimate the foolishness of some …

      It is quite possible that those who vandalized the monument either wished to cause blame to be assigned to Southern apologists or perhaps even blacks who resent the honor given a white man rather than the black troops he led. If I recall aright, the blacks in the bas relief are almost worshiping Shaw, something that will NOT sit well with current black “activists.”

      That quote appears on the gift that keeps on giving (although, to be sure, everyone else expressed outrage and refrained from such speculation).

      • Andy Hall August 1, 2012 / 3:49 pm

        There has been speculation that, since the paint was splashed mostly on Shaw’s horse, the intent may have something to do with an objection to him being mounted and the black soldiers being on foot. But I don’t think such speculation is very helpful, unless the person arrested actually says so.

        In this case, the suspect was apprehended at the scene, complete with her own paint spatters, so at least the “who” part of the case is settled. Far too often, though, in cases like this there’s far too much speculation about why something happened, or what their “true” agenda was, that just doesn’t really tell us anything apart from our own biases and fears. It’s especially damaging when the vandalism case remains unsolved, because there’s nothing to counter the speculation, which eventually becomes ingrained as fact in the minds of those looking for a more complex, sinister hand at work.

      • Margaret D. Blough August 1, 2012 / 8:20 pm

        That’s a truly foolish comment. In the Civil War, officers of Shaw’s rank were mounted while soldiers walked. Also, the person is clearly unfamiliar with the high relief. None of the soldiers are gazing up at Shaw, as I recall. They are looking forward as they march. One of the most notable things about the memorial is that each soldier’s face is different and individualized.

      • MikeD August 1, 2012 / 8:43 pm

        I wondered which of a particular bunch over there might have made that comment and, sure enough, that individual was in my top three. Not surprising. VP can always be relied upon for a fairly regular and predictable vomiting up of anti-black sentiment.

        • Andy Hall August 2, 2012 / 9:02 am

          “VP can always be relied upon for a fairly regular and predictable vomiting up of anti-black sentiment.”

          The Long Island Southrons really are in a class by themselves.

          • Brooks D. Simpson August 2, 2012 / 9:43 am

            We who hail from Long Island feel this most keenly.

            On the other hand, my favorite stalker from Florida is inventing stories about what I’ve said and done, because she needs something to write on for her audience of one.

            That rhymes. 🙂 (And watch her write about this … :))

  2. wgdavis August 1, 2012 / 3:48 pm

    Defacing a monument or memorial is a sick act, and done in this case by a sick person. The reason does not matter. The act alone is a symbol of some mental disconnect. It is, at least, sociopathic behavior

    • John Foskett August 2, 2012 / 7:25 am

      Agree. We may be trying to examine the motivation of somebody who’s bat—t crazy.

      • Brad August 2, 2012 / 5:54 pm

        I was talking about this to a friend who lives in Boston and the perception is that it has nothing to with historical correctness but mental state. This apparently is not the first time the statue has been defaced.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s