Some scatterbrained Sunday afternoon thoughts about Sir John A Macdonald and statues. A thread: /1

So first of all, a preface: I don’t like statues of politicians. Any of them. At all, ever. Monuments are always an exercise in myth-making, and while I don’t mind *some* myth-making (along institutional lines) in pursuit of building a national identity... /2
...monuments to people turn a real human being with all their flaws into a larger-than-life symbol. It contributes to a sort of deification and hero worship I’m deeply uncomfortable with.

Certainly, we should learn about people who shaped our history. And it is... /3
...a fine thing to be proud of that history and its symbols (I certainly love Canada’s). But people - and especially former politicians - shouldn’t be those symbols. We are better off when they fade into obscurity in the popular consciousness. /4
So that’s my prior belief. The plethora of statues to, and public buildings named after, dead politicians suggests my view isn’t widely held (or maybe it is, but not by the people who decide these things, I dunno). So let’s confront the reality of a SJAM statue in 2020. /5
The fact Sir John A was our first PM and a driving force behind Confederation *is* a relevant fact to this issue. Yes, the people saying “Canada only exists because of SJAM” are reaching, but it’s not an understatement to say Confederation as we know it... /6
...was the fruit of his labour more than perhaps any other. The country evolved down the path it did (for better and for worse), when it did, because he worked to set it on that path in the first place.

This is relevant because it’s precisely what the statues to him are... /7
...trying to commemorate: an act of national founding brought about by a flawed-but-tenacious visionary.

This is, I suspect, partly why the reaction to his statue in Montreal being torn down has been so... loud. A lot of people have interpreted the act as an... /8
...act of open disdain for *Canada and Confederation.*

(The fact this was in Quebec and the statue has been vandalized before also shouldn’t be overlooked, of course.)

This conflation of SJAM with “the Canadian Project” makes it very, very hard to have a sincere... /9
...conversation about his human flaws, and the pain he caused.

I’ll get to that in a moment, but first I want to clarify: I love my country. I’m proud to celebrate Confederation on Canada Day each year. Although I think the Canadian Project is flawed in a bunch of ways... /10
...and full of past and present harms in need of rectifying, it is, on balance, more good than bad and an evolving vision worth saving (and serving).

So when it comes to those who *actually do* celebrate the tearing-down of SJAM’s statue as a knock against Confederation... /11
...I’m quite comfortable saying “sorry, but I don’t agree.* And that’s that.

So the rest of this thread is on the perspective that - no matter his role in Confederation - SJAM’s other legacies (residential schools and the treatment of Chinese minorities re: the railroad)... /12
...means that his statues should should be taken down and we should cease publicly honouring him.

On this, I admit I’m conflicted.

First off, as I’ve already said I don’t think we should’ve *built* the statues in the first place.

If you want to build a monument... /13 Confederation, there are other, better symbols you could choose.

If SJAM had some special relationship with Montreal (did he???), build a monument that reflects that link so the underlying meaning is clear.

But that didn’t happen - Montreal has *this* statue. /14
And on this statue, we’re left with a fundamental question: does the fact Canada’s first PM did some terrible things mean we should cease honouring the memory of him *as* the first PM and forefather of Confederation? /15
My own thoughts here are still evolving, but I think for now my position is: “not necessarily, but we shouldn’t allow the monuments to obscure our memory of the damage, and ultimately each local community must choose for itself the best approach to ensuring that.” /16
The best approach might be taking down the statue and putting it in a museum. It might be scrapping the statue. It might be leaving the statue up, but adding a plaque. Or it might be commissioning other monuments in the same area which memorialize the bad stuff. /17
Or maybe a combination of the above.

Regardless, the approach must be community driven, *and it must be done democratically.* Unlawful acts of destruction aren’t acceptable, and ultimately inflame social tensions, rather than catalyzing meaningful discussions. /18
So yeah, that’s it. I have a hard time actually taking a side in this fight, since I’m kind of on both, but also neither. I’d prefer it if we didn’t import American social conflicts, but I also don’t think it hurts to challenge old narratives... 19/20
...about our nation’s past, its people, and the legacies they left behind.

If a few mythical deceased politicians are brought back down to earth off their pedestals in the process, I certainly don’t mind. 20/20 fin.
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