Wednesday, June 24, 2020

TR Should Stay Put

The only thing Theodore Roosevelt had to do with the confederacy is the fact that two of his maternal uncles fought for the South during that troubled time in American history. That being said, the decision by the folks at the Museum of Natural History in merrie olde Manhattan to remove the statue of him in front of the building is just a tad misguided. Depicted on either side of the image of TR mounted a horse are two men: one Native the other African American. Is this is what makes the statue politically incorrect to some people? Am I being insensitive? It would seem to me that none of the images are offensive in any way (although that horse does have a weird expression on his face).

Teddy Roosevelt felt early on the foolishness of the whole idea of white  supremacy. Late in his life (although he died relatively young) he said that anyone who believed in the myth of the "superiority" of white people should have gone with him during his journey into the Amazon wilderness where he charted the "River of Doubt" (which is now named in his honor). Most of the twenty-plus men who accompanied Roosevelt and his team of explorers into the most treacherous place on earth were dark skinned. During the three month journey, from which he almost did not come back alive, he got to know those fellows in a way he had never known anyone in his life. As far as he was concerned, those guys were inferior to no one.

In the autumn of 1901, shortly after becoming president when William McKinley was assassinated, Roosevelt invited the noted African American educator Booker T. Washington to dinner at the White House. A reporter from a southern newspaper found out about the invite after the fact, and within days, indignation throughout Dixie was palpable. The fact that TR would want to express any desire to reach out to America's "negro" community was unacceptable to these fools. It was a controversy that festered for weeks and was slow to fade away. When it was further revealed that Washington had not only dined with the president - but with his wife and daughter - the outrage was compounded.

"I would not lose my self respect by fearing to have a man like Booker T. Washington to dinner if it cost me every political friend I have got."
Theodore Roosevelt

Roosevelt's only sin with regard to African Americans involved the dishonorable discharge of an entire Army regiment of blacks in Texas on rioting charges that they were probably innocent of. His actions in this particular case, I am certain, were not out of malice, but of mere ignorance of all the facts.

I understand that there is a mass sense of outrage that, in 2020, there are statues standing that honor slave-owning traitors to the Union - and that the call is wide and loud that they be torn down. I get it. As I've written on this site before, I am a descendant of Roger B. Taney, the chief justice who wrote the Dread Scott decision - the worst in the history of the Supreme Court. In 2017, as the state of Maryland was tearing the statue of Taney off its pedestal at the statehouse where it had stood for one century and a third, I wasn't whining that my family's heritage was being erased, I was cheering them on! Statues honoring these treasonous swine should forever be removed. No disagreement.

But Theodore Roosevelt???

And let's not forget two facts: 1. Roosevelt founded the Museum of Natural History, and 2. Other than Dwight Eisenhower, he was the last Republican president worth a damn. I really think that they should reconsider this one. If they want to take down the statues of twentieth century American presidents, they might want to start with Woodrow Wilson, who, other than Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson, was the worst racist to ever occupy the White House. That would be a pretty good start.

This monument is probably going to come down whether I like it or not (I don't have much clout with the Museum of Natural History these days) but I would hope that they have the statue relocated to the Roosevelt homestead in Oyster Bay, NY. He was a great man who deserves a place of honor in the history books.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Here is the actual voice of Theodore Roosevelt during the campaign of 1912. He had left the White House in 1909 but was severely disappointed in the policies of his hand-picked successor, William Howard Taft. Although TR won the primaries, the nomination went to his best old ex-pal Taft. Roosevelt mounted a third party uprising (The Progressive or "Bull Moose" Party as it was popularly known). The result was a split ticket, with the White House Going to Woodrow Wilson.

Roosevelt died on January 6, 1919. He was 60. The man was one in 60 trillion.


At 3:25 PM, Blogger The New York Crank said...

The objection to the statue seems to be that Roosevelt is the only one of the three men in this multi-figure sculpture who is mounted on horseback. This gives him a higher elevation (and hence more psychic stature) than the African-American and the Native American. I can offer a number of simple solutions. Get rid of the present statue and...

1. Replace it with a statue of Roosevelt alone.
2. Replace it with a statue of all three men walking side by side.
3. Replace it with a statue of all three men on horseback.
4. Replace it with a statue of Roosevelt leading a horse on which his daughter Alice sits, thus giving some credit to women while implicitly giving her feminine stature that tops Teddy's.
5. Replace New York's Mayor Bill De Blasio, the political hack who seems to have come up with, or at least authorized, this statue removal. This is the best thing our mayoral dud could come up with to save his career? It won't work any better than his failed run for a Presidential nomination from the Democratic party.

Yours very crankily,
The New York Crank

At 5:56 PM, Blogger Mo Rage said...

But the minority figures around him should go away. It looks bad, like it's showing him--us, the US--as conquering them.

At 5:00 PM, Blogger JustMusing said...

Smithsonian Magazine: "The statue was meant to celebrate Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) as a devoted naturalist and author of works on natural history,” the museum says in its statement. “At the same time, the statue itself communicates a racial hierarchy that the Museum and members of the public have long found disturbing.” The two men on either side of Roosevelt were meant to represent the continents where he hunted, but as Futter adds in her interview with the Times, the statue’s hierarchical composition also reflects a racist ideology that prizes white, Western culture above others".

The statue has stood at the AMNH since 1940. I wonder what thoughts TR might have had regarding the statue? Probably one of the options noted above.

At 2:58 PM, Blogger Just the Facts! said...

"If they want to take down the statues of twentieth century American presidents, they might want to start with Woodrow Wilson, who, other than Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson, was the worst racist to ever occupy the White House. That would be a pretty good start." All Democrats, in fact there never was a Republican President who owned slaves...


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