So much of our lives are shaped around the successes and failures of our ancestors. Names like George Washington and Samuel Adams have withstood the test of time, but today, these figures are under assault as officials across the nation are attempting to systematically erase and rewrite our shared history. Mobs in the street, along with reactionary leaders at the state and local level, are on a mission to destroy the statues and monuments that commemorate renowned figures from our past.
For centuries, radicals have destroyed historic and cultural artifacts that don’t align with their narrow, extremist point of view. During WWII, the Nazis looted and destroyed or carted away thousands of priceless works of art. More recently the radical Taliban government in Afghanistan destroyed the world last standing Buddhas in Bamyan because the symbol offended their point of view. ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria took to social media to celebrate their destruction of relics that they deemed to be politically incorrect.
More and more, we’ve seen the same type of reactionary and politically driven cultural violence here in the U.S. Looting mobs and self-righteous, cowering politicians are desperate to uphold their “woke” status and are hell-bent on maintaining political correctness at any cost. Crowds in Oregon defaced and destroyed a statue of George Washington, the father of our Country. In Oakland, an unthinking mob destroyed a statue of Ulysses S. Grant who led both the military effort to topple slavery and the political effort to provide citizenship and civil rights to African Americans.
Other efforts have been less violent in their execution, but no less violent in their intent and result. Right here in Albany, Mayor Kathy Sheehan issued an Executive Order directing city workers to remove the statue of Maj. Gen. Philip Schuyler from its current location at the front of City Hall.
Like so many from his time, Philip Schuyler owned slaves in the 18th century. Despite this mark on his record, he remains one of the greatest New Yorkers in history. Born and raised in Albany, Schuyler fought in the French and Indian War and served in the Revolutionary War. After fighting for our nation’s freedom, he continued to serve the people of our state. He dedicated himself as an assemblyman, state senator and U.S. senator for New York. One of his daughters, Elizabeth married Alexander Hamilton, one of our nation’s founding fathers.
Schuyler’s accomplishments are unquestionable, making it all the more concerning that Mayor Sheehan wants to remove the statue commemorating his life’s achievements. In an effort to appease their political base, elected officials are ignoring historical context and choosing to elevate one character flaw so that it surmounts and negates all the other good that the historical figure achieved.
If we begin scrutinizing every aspect of our past and erasing all memory of those deemed unfit to remember, we won’t have a history to look back on. Benjamin Franklin owned slaves, does that mean Philadelphia should destroy his statues and forget he existed? Should we rename Washington Park or Washington Avenue in Albany? Under this logic, it would seem his face should be removed from our currency and every dollar bill in circulation be destroyed. This is the path we appear to be going down.
We are all fortunate to live in the greatest nation in the world, and we can’t remove the people and events that got us here.
Philip Schuyler’s achievements are unmatched by any New Yorker, past or present, and he should remain at City Hall.
Minority Leader of the Albany County Legislature Frank Mauriello, District 27, and Legislator Jeff Perlee, District 31.