No two ways about it
I am writing in response to Michael Winkler’s opinion piece on Arcata’s McKinley Statue. The first thing objectionable about an elected representative sharing their opinion is that they are not voicing the opinions of those they represent. Instead, they are using their elected position to share their own personal opinion.
I realize the point of Michael’s “opinion” piece is to share his views, but honestly he is an elected representative and I am not sure many voters are as interested in his opinion as in how he is going to represent the voters’ opinion.
The second objectionable element I find in Michael’s opinion is his dichotomous argument, although I agree that Michael’s two ways of seeing McKinley are simple, too simple!
I observe there are several valid points to make around the McKinley statue, none of them are simple, and voters don’t deserve to be put down or belittled during this democratic process.
Look folks, this is just discourse in the democratic process. I believe it essential to accurately reflect and consider all viewpoints. McKinley wasn’t just a “symbol of all the harms done to Native Americans” or an “individual,” “similar to Abraham Lincoln.” This language is loaded with bias and marketing, just like the Trump jargon coming out of Washington.
Citizens must be educated and fair, hold our representatives accountable or kick them out of office. Enough is enough! I say change is good; I say it’s great to be PC and sensitive. As Bob Dylan said in “The Times They Are A Changing,” “Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand!”
McKinley and Vietnam
I’m a former US. Marine and combat veteran of the Vietnam war that witnessed atrocities committed against Vietnamese civilians by some U.S. troops.
It seems to me that the Philippine- American war that was initiated by President William McKinley with his annexation of the Philippines was a “model” for the later war in Vietnam. This included the massacre of civilians, the burning of crops and killing of farm animals, the herding of civilians into “detention camps,” the designation of certain areas where anyone could be killed (later in Vietnam called “freefire zones”) and the systematic use of torture.
The Philippine-American war and insurrection lasted from 1898 to 1913 and the estimates of Filipinos killed range from 500,000 to 1.4 million. In November 1901, the Manila correspondent of the Philadelphia Ledger reported: “Our men have been relentless, have killed to exterminate men, women, children, prisoners and captives, active insurgents and suspected people from lads of ten up, the idea prevailing that the Filipino as such was little better than a dog.”
It was in the Philippine-American war that the racist and dehumanizing label “gook” was first used against the Filipinos and made it easier for some US. troops to commit atrocities against them, later “gook” was used in the Korean and Vietnam wars to the same effect.
While President McKinley was assassinated in 1901, the war and insurrection he started by the annexation of the Philippines lasted long after his death.
The writer Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) was a fierce critic of “U.S. Imperialism” and President McKinley’s annexations of Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico,Guam, Samoa and the Philippines. In 1906 Samuel Clemens described the massacre of an indigenous Filipino group called the “Moros” by U.S. military occupation forces.
Six hundred Moros – men, women and children had seeked shelter at the bottom of a volcano and when the U.S. military found out they were there, they brought troops and artillery up to the rim of the volcano and shot downward killing everyone including babies in their mother’s arms.
This reminds me of another massacre called My Lai in Vietnam where 504 Vietnamese civilians including babies clinging to their mothers were summarily executed.
This is what I think of when I walk by the statue of President McKinley and this is why I want it removed from the Arcata Plaza.
Voices of a People’s History of the U.S. by Howard Zinn, pg. 241
1.4 million Filipinos killed: The End Of An Illusion (London, 1973) by historian Luzvininda Francisco.
“Voices of a people’s history of the US.” - Philadelphia Ledger Nov. 1901, “Manila correspondent.”
“Gooks” – Dickson, Paul (2011) War Slang, Dover Publications pg. 29
Addicted to War by Joel Andreas, Chapter One, “Manifest Destiny,” pg. 24
Mark Twain’s Autobiography, edited by Albert Bigelow, Samuel Clemens, “Comments on the Moro Massacre,” (March 12, 1906).
Robert J. Hepburn
The McKinley BS Detector
I had intended to write several more columns on the McKinley controversy but as John Lennon once noted, “life is what happens while you make other plans.”
After more than two wonderful decades in Humboldt, my wife and I have decided to take on a new adventure as we round third and head for home. So, by election day we will be ensconced in our new digs in Oregon.
Still, I feel a need to make a few observations as I take my leave.
1. Cherry picking is a tactic perfected by experts in the dark art of oppo research. You pick out a couple of votes/statements of your opponent, no matter how unrepresentative or out of context, and hammer it home in your 30-second propaganda ads.
This tactic can also be employed to bend history to the point of breaking. To wit: ought we memorialize a man who threw 100,000 Americans into detention centers for years and turned away persecuted people from our shores to die at the hands of Nazis? Yes, I’m talking about the greatest president of the 20th century, FDR. There has been a whole lot of cherry picking of the McKinley record which is the opposite of historical inquiry and quickly devolves into mere balderdash.
2. A whole bunch of people, often representing organizations, signed on to the statement that no such statue should stand on land where Indian women and children were auctioned into slavery. I have argued for months that at least one of these individuals should come forward with some evidence of this claim. The reason no one has done so is that none of these well meaning, good hearted people had any idea as to the veracity of the statement they signed their names to.
When I read that claim, my BS Detector went off. Not that I had any doubt that horrible, horrible things had happened to Native Americans in California precisely in this era but that such an auction taking place in the center of town struck me as dubious. So I contacted the Humboldt Historical Society and I emailed premier Northern California historian Jerry Rohde. Neither source had encountered any written evidence in all their research to support such an assertion. Were some Indians sold into slavery? Yes, but not where the statue of McKinley has held forth for over a century. That claim seems to me to be bogus.
3. I will credit those who want to remove the statue with absolute zealous certitude of their position but fervor is no substitute for scholarship. The McKinley portrait they paint has virtually no,and I mean no, relationship to the real McKinley. You wouldn’t toss aside expertise with regard to climate change or public health efficacy, etc. Why ignore over 60 years of biographers who all would find the charges against him untethered to reality.
Don’t believe me—read for yourself, please. A murdering racist bent on the destruction of indigenous peoples—that’s what the removers would have you believe he was. How different the views of political scientists and historians over a half century who have consistently rated McKinley an above average president and said he was ahead of his time with regard to racial, religious and gender equity.
4. Instead of being known as the first city to tear down any presidential statue, let alone one of a man who risked his life to end slavery, the good people of Arcata could lead an effort to redress the profound and legitimate grievances of Native Americans.
The holocaust against California Indians, primarily from 1849 thru 1869, has never been acknowledged or apologized for by the state government of California. Arcata, Eureka, the county, our elected state representatives could push for some long, long overdue accountability. Exactly what form the admission and assumption of responsibility would take could be worked out in close conjunction with tribal councils. That could bring people together and produce some very teachable moments.
Final thought: I have been struck by the incivility of too much of the discourse on this issue. Jefferson once quipped that the essence of democracy is admitting the other fellow just might be right.