The Demise of Silent Sam
No Matter Which Side of the Civil War You Stand On, What Happened In Chapel Hill is Unacceptable!
Silent Sam stood on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 1913, when he was erected. Until the last few years? He was simply a benign statue facing Franklin Street.
On a rainy August night in 2018 this statue was toppled. It was the first day of class at UNC Chapel Hill.
Silent Sam isn’t the first Confederate-related statue brought down by protesters. Last August (2017) another monument was literally pulled down by protesters in front of the Durham County Courthouse. Charges against all those accused in the toppling of said statue were dropped. Law enforcement did nothing during the protest.
This is not about whether we agree or disagree on the Civil War, and I know that all of us have very different opinions on this, but that is a whole other subject that I don’t want to address here.
What this piece is about is the frustration that many of us feel when “mob rule” takes over. And believe me when I say it has taken over.
What we learned from the statue that went down in Durham just over a year ago is that not only is it totally okay to protest, but it’s also okay to be a vandal! Get mad and destroy shit that doesn’t belong to you. All charges will be dropped. Never mind that taxpayer (that’s you and me, by the way) money is/was used to upkeep these statues. To tear them down with absolutely zero ramifications is totally unacceptable.
I know that I’m older and old school, but I was brought up knowing right from wrong. I didn’t get a trophy for just showing up. The adults that grew up with me were punished for damaging that which didn’t belong to us. This generation, coming up? The ones that many of us are going to depend on to take care of us in our old age? Not so much. This scares the hell out of me.
Since when is it okay to destroy what isn’t yours? Since when does an angry mob of pissed off millennials get a free pass for vandalism?
Have we become so soft, as a nation, to give these kids (and yes, they are just kids, fresh out of high school, even though their driver’s licenses prove they are legal adults), free reign to destroy whatever it is that they want to?
Vandalism is a crime. Taggers (those using spray paint to graffiti things that also don’t belong to them) will get charged. Toppling a historical monument? Not so much.
I honestly get the division of people over these Confederate-era monuments, but I have no personal stake in them. My family came over from Sicily and Poland well after the civil war, and I wasn’t raised here, in the South, so I don’t have any emotional ties to these monuments one way or the other. Call me Switzerland, if you will.
To see the vandals of last year’s statue walking away Scott-free, though, makes my blood boil. Just as, I’m sure, the vandals that took down Silent Sam will simply walk away, unscathed, does as well. (And I hope that I am way off base, here!)
At what point do we, as Americans, put our collective feet down and say, “Enough, already?”
“Do the crime, do the time ,” is something that has been lost, somewhere along the line.
Do you see what giving our kids a trophy for just showing up has created?
Personally, I think that these confederate-era statues should be placed somewhere (read: museums) so that they can be protected and out of the way from those who might (rightfully) be offended by them. Of course, my not being from around here gives me the advantage of not being emotionally tied to any of these monuments in any way, shape or form, but for those that are? This could easily be seen as a slap in the face. On the other side of the coin? I can also see where the presence of these monuments could also be a slap in the face to anyone who is a descendent of someone who was a slave.
The above paragraph, however, is neither here nor there. That groups of people (any people) can destroy whatever they feel that they need to without any kind of retribution? That’s messed up. I don’t care who you are.
Right is right and illegal is still illegal.
Julie Cusimano Wall is the author of Random Musings From a Type-A Workaholic, a contributor at “The Ascent,” Central Transport Supervisor at a local hospital, Neither Left- nor Right-Leaning, tender-hearted and an extremely outspoken advocate for people that don’t get to experience privilege.