Sheila Sybrant

The answer is obvious, at least for the future.

The question is this: What should be done about the controversy over statues?

The question may seem many-sided, as there are many different statues embroiled in the controversy, and the reasons vary.

For example, statutes of Confederate leaders, according to protesters, glorify slavery. Statues of Christopher Columbus should come down, some say, because of his treatment of Indigenous people. The statue of Theodore Roosevelt in front of a New York museum will be removed because Roosevelt is on a horse with an African-American man on the ground on one side of him and a Native American man on the ground on the other side of him, which gives the perception of racism and white supremacy, according to critics.

Still, all of these diverse issues can be lumped together into one thing: Unfair treatment — and the perception of protesters that the statues glorify people who don’t deserve admiration.

And, so, to return to the question: What should be done about the controversy over statues?

The answer, at least for the future: Defund. Not the police, as some want to do, but the statues.

Statues are expensive. According to a 2018 Smithsonian Magazine article by Brian Palmer and Seth Freed Wessler, “The Costs of the Confederacy,” in the span of a decade, taxpayers shelled out, at minimum, $40 million for Confederate monuments and heritage organizations. Conservatively, individual statues cost thousands of dollars, such as the John B. Castleman Monument in Kentucky, which cost $15,000 but was recently removed because of the controversy surrounding his status as a major in the Confederate army, according to Wikipedia.

Now let’s look at something that we might rather not examine: The national debt. Different sources figure this number in different ways, but most sources agree that our national debt is well over $25 trillion. That’s trillion — with 12 zeros.

There are a lot of questions stemming from this number, but one big one is this: Wouldn’t it be prudent to cease spending money on statues?

Perhaps that is the wrong way to phrase the question. Prudence does not seem to have a place in government budgets. It has always amazed me that individual households must adhere to budgets, but governments … well, not so much. In an individual household, when budgeting must take place, there are things called priorities. Those include food, clothing and shelter. In governments, even when times are tough, somehow money is still found for items like statues.

I enjoy statues. And I think that the kind of statues we are talking about are important, more as history than as art.

Protesters and critics don’t view these statues as history; they view them as an affront. They see these statues as monuments TO SOMEONE.

I see these statues as monuments ABOUT SOMETHING. And they strike me as important as a way to remember those times in history that we should remember, partly so as not to repeat mistakes. Yes, history can be preserved in books, but a majority of us are visual learners, according to researchers, and so statues educate us in ways that books cannot.

Nevertheless, if, as a nation, we are incapable of consensus about distinctions and interpretations of these statues, then what good are they?

If we defund the statues, perhaps we can alleviate some dissension. Maybe, maybe not. We do live in a pretty contentious society anymore.

If nothing else, though, perhaps a defunding movement will help prevent those 12 zeros from becoming 15.

Readers may contact Sheila at svsybrant@gmail.com or 45092 859th Road, Bassett, NE 68714.

In other news

Rats can drive cars. Not your car or my car. (Their legs really wouldn’t reach the pedals, after all.) Rather, researchers have created tiny cars just for their lab rats and certain experiments and have taught the little critters how to drive.