Just one more thing about monuments

Some people (that I respect) feel that the whole conversation about flags and monuments is a distraction, a red herring, a superficial substitute for real change.

I find this argument understandable, but wrong. You want to have a substantive “conversation” about race (or economic equality, or marriage equality, in other contexts)? This is the conversation. The debate over monuments, memorials, flags, “mere symbols,” is the conversation that determines who we are and what we stand for. A city (or a state or a nation) puts up public commemorations as a way of reifying and declaring its values. The debate over monuments is exactly the debate we should be having.

Somewhere down the line, of course, values have to turn into laws and policies. And that’s a whole other conversation. But the conversation about values is where it all begins, and our public monuments and symbols are the language in which we have that conversation. The face we present to the world says who we are and what we believe in.