Should we care about statues or people?
The Tuesday letters to the editor were appalling in their vitriol. One does not have to support vandalism or property damage to understand there is a “back story” here, so let’s try and view this in some context.
First Nations leaders have been consistent in their condemnation of these actions while also articulating the painful reminders of past wrongs that these colonial symbols generate.
As a society I think we are capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. Supporting the rule of law and acknowledging the systemic cultural and physical genocide built into our colonial governance and educational structures are not mutually exclusive.
For me the question is where should our concern be directed? What would you choose, a few cement or bronze statues or the First Nations of Canada?
There is a lot to do, let’s not get sidetracked by a few outliers who choose to act out in a negative way.
Statues do not teach, education system does
If, in the future, people have forgotten about moral abominations committed in their name, it won’t be because we took down some statues.
It will be because our education system, our collective and individual memories and indeed our moral compasses have failed.
Statues are not there to educate; they are there to insist through history that their likenesses were important, and morally right. If we are really concerned about education, there’s a great museum across the street.
In place of Cook, how about a stump?
I was born just down the road from Capt. James Cook, but don’t need a statue to remind me of his remarkable exploits. After all the indignation about his overthrow, here are some practical suggestions.
First, let’s replace the good captain with a giant old-growth stump from the forest near Port Renfrew. Whether it decays or nurses new growth, it may teach us that wilderness is not far away, whether positively in nature or negatively in human hearts.
Second, as long as this city is called Victoria, let’s enjoy more of her statues. We can ship over a boatload of redundant Queen Victorias from junkyards in India and set one up in every neighbourhood. To titillate American tourists, we could add a job-lot of Stalins and Lenins from Russia.
My favourite would be of Enver Hoxha, Stalinist dictator of Albania, the toes of whose golden idol I once saw kissed by fervent workers and peasants.
Victoria badly needs some serious frivolity.
No law prevented residential schools
One letter condemning the toppling of the Capt. James Cook statue said:
“There is nothing in our legal system that allows for this sort of conduct in the first place and thus it should not be the basis for public policy after the act.”
His statement is a bit ironic, given that there was something in our legal system that allowed for residential schools in the first place, which became public policy after the act.
A policy which essentially “toppled” lives, families, traditions, languages and cultures.
Commemorate truth to bring reconciliation
There is an awakening taking place and with it a reckoning for our times. The information age has shed much light on suppressed and long-forgotten truths about the origin’s of our contemporary society.
The realization that we are the inheritors of a brutal legacy of colonization seeing so many Indigenous peoples right here in Canada and around the world lose their lands, their cultures, their populations and their ways of life in the name of colonial expansion, resource extraction and settlement is a fact. It is the truth.
“History is written by the winners,” as they say. However, it is rarely spoken of in ways that reflect the factual reality of the events that transpired, leaving out many inconvenient facts from the narrative.
Today, as truth surfaces it is accompanied by pain, grief and anger. When it is met with an unwillingness to accept it and to see the reality of the past and current circumstances that surround it, conflict arises.
It is time that we come to terms with our shared and terrible legacy. It is no living person’s fault, it is simply the truth of our past. It is also a truth that we can reconcile and attend to meaningfully to create change and promote healing.
This is not “cancel culture.” No one will forget the atrocities of the past and people who perpetuated them. Removing the idols of colonialization from our cities and replacing them with commemoration of the truth will only support positive change.
Different ideas for different people
I read with interest all the letters on this subject appearing in Tuesday’s paper, and several things were brought to mind.
Firstly, I noticed the last names of the letter writers were very diverse, indicating a very broad ancestry, which may illustrate the inherent inclusiveness of our society on the Coast. A small point, but, I think, an important one.
Secondly, one writer briefly pointed out that the Indigenous folk that populated these wondrous islands and coast centuries ago were slavers, thieves and murderers. True. That was their lifestyle then. They aren’t that way anymore, of course, but it is their history.
Finally, there is a school of thought that supports the “what’s sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander” response to the totem poles that dot the West Coast landscape and museums. If you do not like what the person or society represented by the totem or statue, then you have some sort of right to tear it down.
I myself do not support this train of thought. A totem pole tells a story, if you can read it. If you do not like the story, well, just be on your way.
Not everything has to be homogenous and agreeable to everyone. How dull our lives would be if it were! Knowledge does not have to be comforting all the time; sometimes it is horrifying. But it is knowledge, and that is the only way we humans can learn.
And, boy, we have a lot to learn.
Statues down until calls are acted upon
I read with sadness that the statue of Capt. James Cook and Gordon Campbell’s drunk-driving arrest provoked the biggest flood of letters to the Times Colonist. It tells me something about the distance we have to go with reconciliation.
Why is there no flood of outrage over the continuing treatment of the First Nation peoples today, never mind the history? Perhaps our newspaper could help by publishing the responses of Prime Minister John Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau so far to the 94 calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
We all need to write letters to our national, provincial and local leaders demanding that these wrongs be righted now.
I take some hope from the outpouring of money to the GoFundMe campaign to pay for equipment to find the rest of the remains and the recent reviews at the museum and hospitals to combat racism.
There is so much more to be done. The newspaper can help by keeping us up to date on what is being done, what is not being done and what we can do as individuals.
Perhaps all the statues need to be taken down until the 94 calls to action are fully addressed. Then we can put them back up along with an equal number of historical First Nation memorials.
If you want to write, write to the Vatican
Please, if you have taken the time and energy to write letters of consternation about statues being destroyed, will you also write one to the Vatican?
Ask that some of the gold in the buildings, on the ceiling, walls and windows be stripped and donated to residential school survivors and their descendants.
Too radical? There are hundreds of unmarked graves of children being found all over Canada. And your outrage is for the statues? And bike lanes? And crime in the downtown?
Hundreds of graves of children that will likely become thousands and you are lamenting the loss of statues? It is long past time every Canadian checks on their humanity.
A quick guide to who is involved
OK, I’ve got it now — sort of. People who destroy or deface statues of James Cook, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth are protesters. People who set up shop and light campfires in forested areas of Pacheedaht land during high fire-risk times are activists and people who set totem poles on fire are vandals.
Have I got it right? Just checking for a friend.
Maybe the aliens will get it right
A recent letter had it right: We need a climate lockdown.
The unfolding climate-change catastrophe will soon make COVID-19 look like a day at the spa. Evolution — an observably hit-or-miss experiment — seems not to have equipped humans with long-term planning capability, and most of us act as though our immediate comfort, convenience, and pleasure are more important than the sustainability of our species and millions of others.
Corporate capitalism has persuaded us that we deserve private vehicles, foreign holidays, “jet-fresh” imported food, and ever bigger houses stuffed to busting with infinitely replaceable consumer desirables.
If the planet could speak, it would say we deserve a whack upside the head.
The pandemic has shown us that governments can enact and enforce protective laws and support their citizens as we muddle through. They can and should do the same with the climate crisis, but they won’t unless we hold their feet to the fire (an apt idiom).
In the nominal democracies, that means voting out the recalcitrants, but in the meantime we need to change our individual expectations and behaviour. Now. Otherwise, like Lytton, we’ll be toast.
Unfortunately, given our demonstrable collective stupidity, we’re unlikely to effect the necessary changes, so I can only hope that aliens of superior intelligence take pity on us, conquer us, and impose the sensible restrictions that should have been implemented 50 years ago.
Nothing else will matter if climate change persists
I am so frustrated I could, well, you know.
The past few weeks of extremely high temperatures and subsequent amplified fire danger have shown us that global climate change is very real and we are going to feel the brunt of that change.
I look around and I see little concern shown by the public except to book another cruise, plan another cross-country trip, fly off to some distant destination, participate in some extravagant self-indulgent sport or go shopping for a new gas-guzzling truck or large SUV.
Instead of waiting for the government to enact some significant changes to address global climate change, we the people need to think about our activities that are contributing to the situation.
All the admirable causes such as the red dress campaign, the “me too” movement, Indigenous reconciliation and government budget-balancing will be for naught if we continue to destroy our world.
Please can’t we bring some sanity to this situation? Instead of criticizing the colour of Nero’s clothing, think about why he is on the roof with his fiddle.
It doesn’t look good, people.
Stop helping the oil industry, Canada
Something is amiss. We, Canada, are purportedly at the forefront in the fight against climate change. We need to invest in research and development to find and use clean energy.
Why does the federal government use public taxpayer dollars to underwrite oil extraction as it does in Newfoundland and Labrador? Why did we spend $4 billion to twin a pipeline that ought to be dismantled rather than twinned?
The answer must surely be that all parties want to see royalties from oil while it is still legal to do so.
What about our moral obligations?
Eric J. Ronse
Lasting damage and lost opportunities
We just had a wonderful staycation in our hometown Victoria and thoroughly enjoyed rediscovering its many attractions.
It was evident that the COVID-19 restrictions were an awful hardship on the many whose livelihood is dependent on tourism. Quite often we heard the additional comment of these stakeholders in reference to their shrinking business due to lawlessness; A euphemism that does not describe the long-term damage being done to this city’s economic health or its reputation as a sought-after destination.
The graphic blood-red leg stump of our beloved Capt. James Cook’s statue was a shocker.
It should remain as a lasting symbol of how not to run a city.
Seattle is dead because of mob behaviour. A tiny few extremists, knowing they had tacit correctness approval, have caused irreparable damage.
Do we need to follow this path because of the confused principles of a minority with the power to curtail normal police procedure?
Politicians never have a need or awareness to measure “opportunity lost,” such as the vacationer who decided to go elsewhere. That is never counted, but the effect is palpable.
The Cook debacle was a crime of omission never to be repeated. Unless we rediscover the blunt language and discipline that describes the unacceptable, we are doomed to become another Seattle.
Cook would never had got this far without knowing this.
Leave the mess on the waterfront. Clean up the mess in City Hall!
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