Enough Already - Stop Tearing Down Our History!

Anyone who watches the nightly news may think they are watching a science-fiction movie, as roving bands of violent mobs deface and destroy statues, monuments and public buildings.  Sadly, it is real life playing out right before our eyes. One of the first things that totalitarian mobs do is to attack and erase symbols significant to a society’s history. That is exactly what we see happening now.  

The recent attacks on symbols and images of our history is frightening on two levels. First, it is disgraceful how some elected officials sit back and allow this to happen with little or no attempts to halt the anarchy or even so much as an advocate for open discussion.  Arrests, fines, jail time, and restitution would put a stop to these chaotic crowds seeking only destruction and not honest discourse. Instead, police are ordered “stand down” and watch helplessly as historical monuments are destroyed without so much as a whimper from officials.  

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Second, the destruction of images and monuments to historic figures and events important in American history is particularly disturbing as it attacks the very foundation of our nation.  The ignorance of history and more importantly, historical context is what is driving this violence.  Simply put, it is a very dangerous, slippery slope to project the feelings and worldview we have now, back on to figures who lived 50, 200, 500 years or more ago.  Policies and practices that we abhor now, may have been acceptable norms in a different period in history.  That does not make historical figures entirely bad because of it.  In fact, it makes them products of the time period in which they lived,while showing how far we have come as a nation.

The fact is, history is not always pretty. It is made up of the very good, the very bad, and a lot of the in between.  To attack figures who lived centuries ago and try to erase them from the public sphere is frankly, ridiculous.  Rather, figures and events in history should be looked upon as a snapshot in time to tell us where we were during a given historical period and how far we have come.  

We should take pride in the progress we have made and the great strides we have taken towards a better world for everyone.  That means protecting statues, monuments and buildings dedicated to those who built the road to the present day.  To that end, I am drafting a bill, which would significantly increase the penalties for unlawfully destroying or defacing any monument, statue or public building in New Jersey.  No one has the right to destroy public property, regardless of the motivation.  It is time that we stand up for our history, warts and all and celebrate the road that brought us to the greatest nation the planet has ever known.

Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger