Vote No on Measure M, Says Letter to the Editor

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Letter to the Editor

As somebody who has written extensively about history and memory, and participated in campaigns to bring a social justice perspective to pubic memorials, I urge residents of Arcata to vote “No” on Measure M.

A public memorial can in my view serve one or more functions: acknowledge an atrocity or injustice committed against a large number of people in the past; celebrate social movements and leaders who have fought against injustice and inequality; and symbolize a community’s aspirations to create a society based on equality and dignity.

The McKinley statue meets none of these criteria. As president McKinley was associated with a war in the Philippines that practiced unspeakable repression and cruelties (including “water boarding”) against thousands of Filipinos. Under his leadership, racism against African Americans increased. He did not support any movements for social justice in California, including efforts by Native organizations to achieve reparations and return of stolen artefacts and human remains.

Moreover, the decision to erect the McKinley statue was made undemocratically by local political and economic elites. After the McKinley statue is gone, we should have an engaged public debate about how the Arcata plaza can represent the best of us and our aspirations for equality, justice, and dignity.

Tony Platt, a Distinguished Affiliated Scholar at Berkeley’s Center for Law and Society, is the author of twelve books, includingGrave Matters: Excavating California’s Buried Past (2011) and Beyond These Walls: Rethinking Crime and Punishment in the United States (January 2019) He lives in Berkeley and Big Lagoon.

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25 comments

  • McKinley was actually one of this country’s better presidents. Judging him by today’s moral standards is a fallacy. Should people in Italy remove all their ancient statues and hide them away just because those people owned slaves? I don’t think so.

    I suggest the author of this article move from Berkeley to Afghanistan where destroying old statues that don’t conform to our present morals and religion and is socially acceptable.

    And to be honest I’m really sick of people who don’t even live in Arcata telling us what to do.

  • These no on M people are really off base. The atrocities in the Philippines were perpetrated by both sides. Communication between the U.S. and the Philippines was slow in those days. To lay every nasty historical event from the time that Ole Mac was a little boy until a couple decades after his assassination in really a stretch. Give it up please!

    • Oh, the atrocities, committed by every culture on earth. Ask a Mayan or an Aztec, slavers and butchers both. Or groups in Africa enslaving each other, and running the slave trade from Janus and Timbucktoo, supplying muslims with thousands of slaves. Then there are the Mongols, who killed 880,000 muslims in Bagdad, in 1256 AD. The Japanese slaughtered and enslaved Koreans and Phillipino and Indonesians. The Crow, Blackfoot, and all others here pre 1492 warred and enslaved each other. White people are in the minority on earth, and a very small minority when it comes to atrocities and slavery. This country has one of the shortest times of slavery than most. Hope that helps. Q 17

  • I like history. I like debating history and what it means. I cannot advocate whitewashing or censoring of history like these Arcata Talibanis want to do.

    • the white mans history in the northcoast is not history. nothing noble has every happened. the history is literally a list of resource extraction cause and effect events, mostly tragic. there no honor is felling trees, just a paycheck.

  • I think that whole county should be allowed to vote on this and also vote on what replaces the statue if has been decided that it will be removed. I vote we replace it with a statue of a masked man wielding a knife, as apparently that is what Arcata is becoming known for. Could even put a couple of cops alongside of him shrugging their shoulders in confusion.

  • Yup. Damning stuff, not supporting movements for social justice in California. How simplistic a view for a self identified historian. Or rather a person who apparently “writes extensively” about “bringing social justice perspective” to public monuments.

    McKinley, who tried to end Spanish colonial control of Cuba, supporting the rebels there, was neither a great villian nor a saint. He was involved in American expansion for much more complicated reasons than is dreamed of in Mr. Platt’s philosophy. Even the grabbing of Hawai’i, which I always considered very unjustified, did have reasons in the minds of the world at that time- fear that Japan would grab it, which they were on the way to doing, and it would become a military base for use against American shipping. A look down the road shows that had its basis.

    Let’s be real. The President McKinley statue is not a target because of what he did in his life but because it is the only target in our area for the current power struggle between those who seek to condemn the past and replace the government it created with what they see as a more noble future- one world socialism- and those who resent the recasting of the government who gave them so much as an evil to be expunged. Everyone else throws their oar into the water based on their view point, making for lots of anger over things McKinley had nothing to do with. It’s a pure power play.

    I doubt whether removing the Statue will or leaving it will make any difference in the anger level. Indians will not forget the past evils if it goes and neither will the current inhabitants who feel picked on. But, as a person who finds discomfort in the posturing of both sides, but certainly distrusts socialism and its nasty blame game ideology, I prefer they lose at every turn. There has never been a socialist government that has not turned into a dictatorship or failed in the attempt and created hardship for its citizens. It’s an ideology that is only useful when their power is checked. They are the intrinsically yappy little dogs that have a place as watchdogs but never should be taken too seriously. They make horrible tyrants as do most whose goal is to impose their ways on everyone.

  • Evil people should not be celebrated by statues but remembered for the their atrocities in museums and history books. Simple

    • George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln all supported atrocities and genocide against Native Americans. And the first two were slave owners. So i guess they are evil people and we need to remove all their statues and monuments too?

      Mckinley was just a man. Neither purely evil or good. But actually one of our nations better presidents. It seems ridiculous to remove every statue of every person who ever did anything wrong. There won’t be any statues left if that happens.

      • Sounds good, thanks for the idea. Maybe we can then stop celebrating, limited narrations via statues, as their benefactors intended & we can learn the full stories via history books & museums instead. Simple.

        • how about removing and destroying , a second monument be errected . monuments are nothing more than a waypoint. this is where we were it is fitting to have one showing where we are now in a police state where self entittled little kids throw temper tantrums to get their way

  • The same hippycrits who would vote to remove the statute would be perfectly fine with a statute of Karl Marx, despite the millions slaughtered under the ideology he perpetuated; fuck you!

    • Nope, you said that. Extremists come in all shape and sizes, from all sides and perspectives, Caesar Sayoc.
      Marx should not be celebrated by statue but remembered in museums and history books, for atrocities carried out by extremists in his name, not himself.

      “All I know, is I’m not a Marxist!”
      Karl Marx

      • Actually I’ve heard him quoted as saying, “God save me from the Marxists.”

      • You’re not seriously suggesting that the man who advocated Marxism did not believe in what he was advocating are you? If you had a clue you would know that quote was used sarcastically. But you don’t have a clue, which is why your feeble attempt at excusing him by pointing out the atrocities “carried out by others, not him,” is so pathetic. If you hire a hitman you’re just as guilty as the hitman.

        “The theory of Communism can be summed up in one sentence: Abolish all private property.”

        Karl Marx

        Communism is just a form of socialism. Both advocate taking things from one class of people and giving it to another at the point of a gun. So called “Democratic Socialism” is no different. Democrats, for all intents and purposes, advocate this ideology, which is one of many reasons why I find them so repugnant.

        • Your hitman comparison is a very weak metaphor. No one holds a gun to your head when you use a library, go to public school or use the post office. Yet you support an orange who has said he could shoot someone in the middle of time square & no one would do anything. Oh that’s right he was just being sarcastic like Marx….

          Besides, only guns I heard being pointed at anyone lately were Republican supporters that shot up churches, synagogues & mailed bombs. You were saying? According to your thought process, if Marx is guilty of hiring the hitman, then that means your guilty for hiring the Orange. That means your guilty for all the blood shed this week. So go ahead, hold onto that thought process buddy.

  • There are more important priorities at hand, and pronto.

    Have you been following what’s been going on in Washington lately? That’s the issue needing change. As well as accountability, truth, and yes, even exercising some measures of basic morality that we used to have. That’s the Big White Elephant in the room everyone is either inured to or ignoring. This statue is just small potatoes in comparison.

  • Every statue of a white guy is historically significant. All others need not apply. Try and remove a statue of an old white guy and you will be vilified as a historical revisionist. Try and put up a statue of a Native American Indian and you will be vilified as living in the past.

    • Of course none of that is true. There are any number of public statues honoring everyone from Sikwayi, Chief Washaki, Crazy Horse, Chief Menominee, Chief Black Hawk, Chief Tatanka Iyotake, Chief Seattle, etc to public memorial generic images honoring Native American veterans, Pocahontas, Trail of Tears, etc.

      What do you expect to achieve by such untrue vitriol?

  • Awesome posts all, especially by “Guest” above. Especially like the one from “Faro” above stating that “… And to be honest I’m really sick of people who don’t even live in Arcata telling us what to do.”

    So true, those behind No on Measure M on their web site have filing papers that list the Treasurer and the Director as living in Eureka. Those same filing papers for the Yes on Measure M group have both their Treasurer and Director as living in Arcata!!

    Go Figure!! Yes, another group of whiners wanting to change history to their perfect ideals.

  • Who cares. Just fucking sell it.
    I’m sure Arcata could use the cash more than they need the removal fees,or the countless hours of official time wasted.

    Go out east and there are statues everwhere.There is even a statue of my own slain relative in Civil War Union Volunteer garb.

    Although I think this one is cool simply because of the photo of it surviving the big SF quake/fire at the foundry.
    It’s a survivor so far. Let a private collector buy/remove it.
    Plant a tree there.

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