• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Let These Statues Stand: Part I

July 2020

“Let these statues stand”.

Weighty and lapidary, simple and direct, it’s infrequent at this hour to find in our language four words of commensurate strength, of equal concision, by which the dizzied passions of our mind, the blind reactions of our soul, are to be arrested. In most other circumstances, when thin rather than substantial words touch the gentle opening of our ear, when other phrases innocent of depth and shorn of meaning are bandied about, we’re easily able to resist the impact of their force. They haven’t the potency of eloquence, the brevity of wit, in whose presence we feel our minds quiver, our bodies go limp.

Yet, on occasion, a string of four words, such as “Let these statues stand”, such as “Let my people go”, when exclaimed with authority at a moment such as this, succeeds not only in slowing, but in completely arresting us in our tracks. These are declarations announced with resolution and with force. These are the words on which movements and epochs hinge. Peremptorily, such words halt us in the blind thrust of our furor, in the whirling haymakers of our conceit. They help us in the recovery of our shared path, a unified road from which, because of our misguided rage, we’ve inattentively strayed.

Unfortunately, however, this recovery isn’t always so long lasting. It returns us to ourselves, to the nation and the people by whom it’s made, to the diverse and happy neighbors whom we so love, and who love us back, for but a short period of time. Just as quickly, it’s gone. It tempts us before leaving us, in the process throwing us into the fresh onset of a renewed, and preferably conspicuous epileptic fit (what good, after all, is a malady of conscience if not filmed and broadcast for the viewing world to see?). We are, alas, bereft of our intelligence and crazed once again. We are, to borrow from Dante, the first words with which his great poem begins, left once again in a “dark wood, wherein the straight road no longer lay”. He, thankfully, retrieved it with the unperturbed help of Virgil. We have no such leader beside whom we can walk.

For the past few weeks, though really, if we’re counting, for the tumultuous recent decades by which this present hour has been preceded, we’ve busied ourselves with upheaval, irrationality, and—to use a borrowed but deliciously appropriate term—bouleversement.

Decadent and idle, victimized and aggrieved, we’ve become a people inflamed by the heat of our angry and smoldering thoughts. We’ve become bound to a burning spirit to which the cool breeze of reason, that gentle zephyr of equanimity and thought, is unsusceptible. We are the self-immolators, the pyromaniacs, the Promethean malcontents to whom that hottest of elements has been given with neither instruction nor restraint. Thus endowed, we’ve used it to set on fire the house we call home, the nation in which we live. We’ve substituted for our reason—that gift by which, not so long ago, we were distinguished from the lowly station of the beasts—our emotion. The former has become a forgotten vestige that once, albeit very long ago, likened us to god; the latter, a dangerous and flammable spark over which we haven’t the slightest control.

It is, in some ways, the climax of a movement whose strength has accrued through the years. It’s originally slow, now swift crescendo has brought us to this point of ultimate conflagration and distress. The radicals by whom, for one too many a complacent semester, we were entertained in the academy and the abstract, are now playing out their philosophy with relish in the field. They’ve made the great leap from orthodoxy to orthopraxy, from thought to act, and are demonstrating with glee the horrible consequences of their nimble feat. Their current commitment to the toppling of statues, the arrant iconoclasm to which, with neither discrimination nor tact, they’ve savagely devoted themselves, is all the necessary proof of this.

The plague of COVID-19, it seems, has lapsed; no health official, with all his prevarications and data-driven graphs, would have me otherwise convinced. Throughout these long and hard months, a time during which the crude statistics and basic science have often been ignored, his authority has been vitiated, his esteem weakened in the public eye. What we see before us, now, is the disease of Philistinism, a plague most assuredly on the rise. Along with that plague, to which the depraved mind, as opposed to the enfeebled body, is always prone to succumb, are the following ailments: nihilism, racism, post-modernism, and Marxism. The first is no worse than the last, each being nearly equally as bad. And it’s with vigor and with malice that they’ve arrived. The lot of them is here, pervasive, and menacingly real.

How, you might ask, will they journey from one place to the next? Is not the robust frame of America immune to the indecency of their assaults? Is not America’s heart and constitution equipped to combat the ideological fury of their punch? Is not her fortitude the envy of the civilized world, an audience before whom, with feet planted on this stage of Earth, she assertively stands and struts? Is hers not a continent of pachydermatic skin, a land draped in a hide through which no pseudo-philosophy has yet penetrated with any sense of ease? Are not her citizens the strongest and sturdiest of them all, a people too holy to be made—without any hope of redemption—to feel as though they live interminably in sin?

I’m no longer so confident that they are, but those very same radicals of whom I made prior note, that group intent on the complete destruction and remaking of this once noble land, will be the inebriated, gratuitous vectors by whom those nasty ideas are spread. They’ll be the ones (with no small help from the venality of our governing class) by whom our country is to be threatened, imperiled, and possibly killed.

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