Howdy folks, it’s time to play ... WHEEL ... OF ... DISASTER!
Let’s get right to it. Give the old sinister circle a spin and see what comes up.
Click click click click ...
What will it be? Raging global pandemic? Spreading economic collapse? Erratic, ineffectual and traitorous president? Ongoing social unrest? Murder of Chicago children in unchecked random violence?
And it’s ... it’s ...
Destruction of civic monuments. A good one! Johnny, a little background if you please.
Thank you, Neil. Along with peaceful protests following the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis came anger directed at monuments to the slaveholding South.
First confined to Confederate generals such as Robert E. Lee, eventually far more laudable historical figures like Ulysses S. Grant and George Washington found also themselves toppled.
Thank you, Johnny. Let’s get the round started. For $50, answer the following: On Friday, the president of the United States issued an executive order related to monuments. Did he;
a) resolve to address the festering institutional racism that sparked these attacks on public iconography;
b) form a committee to investigate how the federal government collaborated with the defeated Confederacy to steamroll the rights of its newest citizens;
c) attempt to knit up our unraveling rule of law by assuring citizens that we are all part of this grand if flawed American experiment; or
d) promise to prosecute “to the fullest extent permitted” anyone caught damaging a public monument or statue?
Suzy! “Umm ... ahh ... I’ll have to go with ‘d,’ Neil.”
Right you are! The Revanchist Right of course has quickly cast removal of Confederate icons as a wholesale assault on American history, aided by the random excesses that come with social unrest.
For $100, what iconic South Dakotan tourist destination was stoutly defended by its governor even though nobody had threatened to remove it? Steve!
In the form of a question, please.
“Sorry, Neil. What is Mount Rushmore?” Is correct!
After conservative pundits suggested the mountainous monument would be next, in the fretful pearl clutching they always revert to, South Dakota GOP Gov. Kristi Noem tweeted “Not on my watch.” Which is ironic. For $150, why? Suzy!
“Umm, because Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum was a Klan member who sculpted the Stone Mountain Confederate shrine before getting into the presidential veneration business, a path not unlike the one we’re seeing today?”
Very good! Now for our local round. What Chicago monument was also carted away?
Would that be:
a) the massive Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park?
b) two statues honoring anonymous World War I doughboys in Lincoln and Garfield parks?
c) a bust of Joan of Arc in Norwood Park? or
d) all them?
Steve! “Is it ... c?”
No, I’m sorry, ALL of those sculptures vanished, and in less scrutinized eras their absence went unnoticed for years. A reminder that history can never turn so bleak that it wasn’t worse before.
We are a city, after all, where the Haymarket Police Memorial was dynamited not once but twice and had its own 24-hour police guard before being removed to the police academy for its own protection.
Speaking of local monuments. This one’s for you, Suzy: What benign and nowadays utterly ignored piece of public sculpture was nevertheless met by protests at its unveiling?
“Would that be ... ah ... umm ... the Miro?”
No, I’m sorry, Miro’s lady was doused in red paint a few weeks after its debut in 1981. We were looking for Claes Oldenburg’s 20-ton “Batcolumn.” When it was dedicated in 1977, protesters called it “a five-story nightstick ... one more proof that capitalist culture is hopelessly played out.”
Which is funny, because Oldenburg, who trained at the School of the Art Institute, was clubbed by police at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Oldenburg found the protests “rather playful,” a reminder that today’s crisis might be tomorrow’s stale joke.
Oh, that’s the buzzer, I’m sorry, that’s all the time we have for today. Thank you contestants. Those playing along at home, hope to see you again Wednesday.
Goodbye and folks, please remember to always let the past be a springboard toward a better tomorrow, and not a ball and chain keeping you from moving forward.
I’m your host, Neil Steinberg, until next time: Thanks again for playing WHEEL ... OF ... DISASTER!