Why does the effort to tear down our country’s monuments bother me? When those people gave so much of themselves to what they believed true, what business do we have harshly judging them? These are people we never knew, people with a similar, but different set of ideals.
Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. — Mary T. Lathrap (from here (grammarist.com))
Can you imagine walking a mile in George Washington’s shoes? Why would anyone who has seriously studied Washington’s life seriously want to remove his image from Mount Rushmore? Washington was too imperfect?
Let’s assume we do know more than the men and women past generations honored with monuments, that we live more noble lives than these heroes of the past. How could that be so? Did we arrive in this world knowing everything, or nothing? Who taught us? Who bequeathed us this greater wisdom? Look at Mount Rushmore. The people who taught the people who taught us honored those men because those men had given them and previous generations honorable service and led with heroic wisdom.
When a man builds a statue to himself, that is an act of vanity. Tear down that statue, and few will care. When people build monuments in honest admiration, however, we should take the time to wonder why. What did they see in the character and deeds of that person that is worthy of our esteem and emulation?
Instead of trying to judge the heroes of the past, we should try to learn from their achievements and their mistakes.
Matthew 7:1-5 New King James Version (NKJV)
7 “Judge[a]not, that you be not judged.2 For with what[b]judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Whenever we see a monument, we should consider why it stands. Was there a great struggle involved? Does that monument stand because people wanted to show their respect for those who did not abandon them but led in times of turmoil? Are we prepared to say we are not blind to what they saw, that we rightly hate that monument? If we have a doubt, then we should not be hasty and demand that monument’s removal. For even though that brother is long dead God will hold us to account for the way we have judged ourselves better than another.