(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Orange County School of the Arts

Opinion: Entering the year 1984

“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” – George Orwell, 1984 

Early morning on Dec. 21, the Robert E. Lee statue was removed from the U.S. Capitol at the request of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. 

While the removal may appear both reasonable and positive (Robert E. Lee was a Confederate general who fought for the continuation of slavery), this Orwellian action may be signaling a dangerous future for American society.

Though the statue of Robert E. Lee is not being destroyed and is merely being moved to a museum, this is not the first time a statue, monument or building name has been deemed unworthy to be present in a public space.

Most recently in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, statues ranging from Christopher Columbus to George Washington have been toppled and/or vandalized. San Francisco is considering renaming their Abraham Lincoln High School. 

This attack on historical figures appears to be selective. If we are to hold every statue of a human being accountable to each and every action they have committed in their life, we will have no statues left.

Many celebrities have numerous issues and moral failings yet we glamourize their lives, immortalizing them in places like wax museums. Then let’s ravage through places like Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and tear down any reference to public figures that were womanizers or drug addicts.

While statues of Confederate Americans are being taken down, a Vladimir Lenin statue stands proudly in the streets of Seattle. The face of Che Guevera (a cold blooded Communist and mass murderer) has been imprinted onto a line of shirts that have been greatly popularized as an edgy fashion statement. 

American society is doomed if we continue down this path of historical revision and erasure. With the elimination of Confederate statues and monuments in particular, this could possibly lead to groups of “slavery deniers” in the same way that we see Holocaust deniers. Isn’t this a form of censorship?

Moving statues from public squares to museums is preferable to the growing trend of tearing down and even vandalizing statues. Let’s move and make them accessible to the public. 

I believe it is important to preserve statues in addition to what we read in history books and learn in history class. They serve as a reminder of the harsh realities that have built America, and to no longer repeat such atrocities. As George Orwell so eloquently said, we must resist creating ¨an endless present in which the Party is always right.”