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Jefferson Statue Removed for Imperfect Past

The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.

-George Orwell

After standing tall for 187 years, an 1833 sculpture of Thomas Jefferson has been removed from New York City Hall following a vote by the New York City Public Design Commission. The statue, that used to stand 7 feet tall, represented the third president of the United States and the primary author of the Declaration of Independence. For all the good Jefferson did for the country, we must only remember his imperfections.

Jefferson was a slave owner. According to multiple reports, he owned over 600 slaves: 400 people were enslaved at Monticello, while an additional 200 were held on Jefferson’s other properties. If Jefferson was a slave owner today, there would be calls from both sides of the aisle to put him under the jail. However, Jefferson operated during a time in our nation’s history when slavery was legal. While it has never been an ethical practice, the institution wasn’t challenged because of its economic advantages.

Jefferson also coined the phrase, “all men are created equal,” in his writing of the Declaration of Independence, the document that declared our independence from Great Britain. Jefferson may also be remembered for doubling the size of the United States following the Louisiana Purchase, his success during the Barbary War, and founding the University of Virginia.

Despite all of his major successes and contributions to the United States, we are only to remembers Thomas Jefferson as a vile person who endorsed the ownership of other human beings.

As many of you may already know, I am no fan of public-funded art. Once a statue is removed, I beg that we don’t put another one up. There are more efficient ways to spend American tax dollars, which are generated off of the backs of working men and women, than putting up statues in public spaces. It won’t be long before Martin Luther King Jr.’s statue in Washington D.C. is removed for symbolizing his misogynistic views of women or his unfaithfulness to his marriage. How long will George Floyd statues stand before they stop representing his death and start representing how he lived his life?

Statues are symbolic speech and serve the purpose of remembering and idolizing people from a nation’s past. This purpose, in my opinion, is not important enough for the government to keep funding pieces of art that will be torn down by the next generation of decision-makers. I honestly stand in no opposition to the tearing down statues. If the public doesn’t want them anymore, then find a home where they may be appreciated. I do, however, strongly oppose the funding and erecting of future statues, because it’s abundantly clear that we will never have a person who does not have imperfections.

If you put any human being under a microscope, it’s easy to find ways to demonize them. Jefferson’s past was extremely publicized because he wasn’t engaged in anything illegal. If statues are to represent perfection, and that seems to be the general consensus, then no person has lived their lives absent imperfections. Instead of wasting government funds on statues that may appease those offended by Jefferson, perhaps we use that money more wisely.

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