Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, wrote a stunning and humbling defense of the monuments being targeted throughout our nation. In his opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, Cardinal Dolan took the kind of measured approach to history that people on both sides of the aisle could stand to emulate.
Here’s what Cardinal Dolan, who’s trained as a historian, wrote: “I want to remember the good and the bad, and recall with gratitude how even people who have an undeniable dark side can let light prevail and leave the world better.” The Cardinal is right. Unless you are making a statue of Jesus himself, you will never make a statue of a perfect person. History is made by imperfect people. Some were truly evil, and did nothing good for humanity. But some strove to make the world a better place in spite of their flaws.
We need to recognize those imperfect people who fought to make the world better. This is bigger than just giving a pat on the back to people who do a good job. Our future is as much at stake as our past. Cardinal Dolan made it clear that “Defacing, tearing down and hiding statues and portraits is today’s version of Puritan book-burning. Our children need to know their country’s past, its normative figures and their virtues and vices.”
Just like the Cardinal wrote, our children deserve to know the history of figures depicted in statues. Statues are meant to inspire people to take action of their own. Children need to know that even flawed people can make a difference. You don’t have to be perfect to make the world better. If we demonize any historical figure with any flaw, there will be no one left to inspire our children.
In the end, when we try to erase history, the only people we hurt are ourselves and our children. More people need to take a hint from Cardinal Timothy Dolan. We don’t need to celebrate the mistakes of our forefathers, but we must remember. Tearing down beloved monuments and statues tears down our hope for a bright future, even for imperfect people.