The term justice needs no modifier. Indeed if you give it one, that’s no longer what it is.
Following on the heels of statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson being torn down, now vandals have toppled a statue of Union General Ulysses S. Grant:
Protesters in San Francisco, California, toppled a statue of Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th president of the U.S. who led the Union Army during the Civil War, among other monuments at Golden Gate Park on Friday.
Video footage and images shared on social media showed the statue of Grant being torn down on Juneteenth, which celebrates the emancipation of slaves in the U.S.
This is a movement that will destroy itself, because no human being is perfect and no one above reproach. It’s only a question of whose turn is it next. That’s how mob rule and “vigilante justice” works.
Nearly 400 protesters were reported at the scene around 8:30 p.m. local time, according to police, who did not engage with the demonstrators. No arrests were made, NBC Bay Area reported.
Why would police intervene at this point? Rightly or wrongly—and the wrongly will rightly get plenty of airtime—their intervention or attempts at crowd control are being met with demands for firing and criminal charges. Absolutely warranted in many cases, but also certainly not universally. What officer or department would take on this risk given the current climate?
Despite calls to “Defund the Police” (which usually comes with explanatory text detailing how “defund” in this context doesn’t mean “defund”), we need law enforcement. Laws are the rules we all agree to live by, and in this nation at least, we have mechanisms to change the ones we don’t like. Those mechanisms do not include violent revolt. “Might makes right” is the credo of anarchists.
To be clear: I am absolutely in favor of peaceable protest, and I am absolutely in favor of police reform. I’ve called for body cams for a number of years. I see no particularly value in having police officers in public schools. (Until recently I also had no idea that the school districts were paying large sums for this. Our local school district pays almost $1 million a year.) The duties of police officers need to be radically redistributed; they are simply called on to do too much, acting in roles like mental health counselor to drug addiction interventionist. We need to demilitarize the police. Officers must not view the world as “us vs. them” but instead see themselves as members of the the community.
None of these necessary transformations makes any less essential the role law enforcement plays in our society. The peace and security of the citizenry must be maintained.
The statues of St. Junipero Serra, the first saint of the Roman Catholic Church to be canonized in the U.S., and Francis Scott Key, the author of the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” were also torn down at the park on the same day.
Reacting to the news, several social media users condemned the toppling of Grant, who was believed to have owned a slave before the start of the Civil War, noting the former president helped to end slavery by leading the Union Army of the North.
President Lincoln, in one of the famous Lincoln-Douglass debates said the following on 18 September 1858:
I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races … I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races from living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be a position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.
Time to tear down the Lincoln Memorial, right? We should ignore his change of heart and all that followed from it. We should ignore all good deeds of a man and focus only on the bad. Forget that our greatest president freed the slaves and kept the nation together.
But should we stay on this path, Lincoln’s turn will come, as will everyone’s. It is as inevitable as the tides. No hero is the perfect hero because no human being is flawless.
So if this begins to remind one of the China’s Red Guards and their path of cultural destruction, the reason is that’s exactly what this is.