Hurrah for London Mayor Ken Livingstone's plan to remove from his city's streets some of the rusty icons of the British Empire's racist, imperialistic past [front page, Nov. 6].
It's time our National Park Service and the District did the same and removed from their pedestals in our squares and circles some of those generals whom only a Civil War buff could recognize, along with assorted curiosities including a statue of a reputedly antisemitic poet. We have no shortage of national and international heroes better suited to memorialization than 19th century bronzed soldiers and other has-beens.
Some candidates for removal:
How about Maj. Gen. John Rawlins, ensconced in that lovely park at 18th and E streets NW, whose job in the Civil War was trying to keep Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, the Union commander, away from the whiskey bottle?
Then, there's Maj. Gen. John "Black Jack" Logan in his own Logan Circle, whose major distinction was leading thousands of Union troops to their deaths in a disastrous charge during the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.
Revolutionary War Maj. Gen. Artemas Ward stands in his own circle in Northwest Washington only because Harvard alumni paid $50,000 in 1938 to honor one of their own.
In the nonmilitary category, a prime candidate for removal is Taras Shevchenko, a 19th century Ukranian poet, whose bronze and granite memorial stands in a triangular park at P, 22nd and 23rd streets NW. In the early 1960s, opponents of the memorial said Shevchenko was not only an idol of Soviet Communists but an antisemite and anti-Polish to boot.
Another expendable may be the 100-year-old monument on Massachusetts Avenue honoring Samuel Hahnemann, the German founder of homeopathy, an alternative form of medical treatment still disparaged by much of the medical profession.
These icons could be relegated to a monumental curiosity shop--East Potomac Park, perhaps--while more worthy souls took their place.
For example, one of last century's most popular presidents, Harry S. Truman, recently had the State Department named in his honor, but he deserves a statue in a public place, showing him jauntily walking down Pennsylvania Avenue, hat on head, cane in hand.
Woodrow Wilson, the historically revered World War I president, is dubiously remembered by scores of daily curses, as in that "damned Wilson Bridge," but by no city monument.
And Dwight D. Eisenhower has a theater in the Kennedy Center, but as president and commander of World War II European Theater forces, he certainly overshadows most of those Civil War relics. The same can be said for George C. Marshall, author of the plan that rebuilt Europe.
In addition to presidents, inventors and scientists who have changed the quality of our lives are largely ignored. John Ericsson, perfecter of the screw propeller used in the Monitor he designed, which turned the tide of Civil War battles, has a monument, but what about the Wright brothers, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Samuel Morse, Henry Ford, Albert Einstein or Jonas Salk?
In literature, Washington honors Dante and Kahlil Gibran, but why not Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe or Henry David Thoreau? And on the international front, shouldn't we reserve a spot for Nelson Mandela?
Women are massively underrepresented in monumental Washington, despite recent memorials honoring their contributions in the military. With a planned monument to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., African Americans are belatedly honored, but still have minority monumental status.
As the World War II monument sparks a debate about how and where to remember the past, it's time to look at some of the dinosaurs in our squares and circles. So bully to the Brits for taking the lead.
-- John Mathews