It’s been almost a year since various and sundry far left groups went to war with statues all over the country. Anyone counting statues, plaques, memorials and obelisks would probably say we’ve all fought to a draw.
The left can take comfort that many pieces of art, sanctioned memorials and historic relics are either broken into pieces, knocked over and vandalized or were simply removed. That’s a great win, we’re just not sure what sort of gain was truly made.
Locally, of course our $120,000 Juan de Oñate statue was moved before it could come under attack. We’re not big on government taking action without citizen input but Rio Arriba County Manager Tomas Campos called it right when he removed the statue before it could be damaged.
Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber’s inaction resulted in the Santa Fe Plaza’s historic obelisk being severely damaged by vandals. Bet Webber wishes he had acted sooner by either removing the obelisk or at least enclosing it for protection. Like it or hate it, the obelisk was an important part of history.
Breaking, removing or defacing these historic markers are acts of vandalism. By definition they vary from misdemeanors to felonies. Why law enforcement and prosecutors aren’t aggressively charging the vandals probably goes to the politics of the individual cities and counties around the country.
Over the summer of 2020, newspapers and electronic media did a great job of letting the pro statue vandals and the anti statue vandals air their grievances, argue their point and explain how the removal of a statute will help end racism or how it’s just angry people acting out.
So we’ve all had our say and we’re all firmly pro or con for the removal or preservation of these markers. No one has changed their mind and there is no consensus.
It is time to start a dialog, a public dialog, with input from everyone who wants their voice heard. We know County officials are groaning, but keeping Señor Oñate caged in a warehouse somewhere is not right. It may not be right for him to return to his Alcalde pedestal but he belongs somewhere. He is probably the main reason we are all here right now. Yes, there is part of our population that wishes we weren’t all here now and we get that. But how about we talk about that in an adult manner?
Talking heads say we’ll hit our vaccination goals and reach herd immunity soon. Perhaps post Memorial Day we could try to hold public meetings and listen to citizens. Of course with the vitriol and unbridled vandalism and hate, it’s not clear if we can hold public meetings.
But we should try.
Racism is as bad as it was before Oñate was removed, if anything it’s worse. There’s been no healing, probably quite the opposite. If the community could come to a consensus, a compromise, on where Oñate could be displayed with both sides giving, instead of demanding, it could be a step toward a little bit of healing.