Shall We Never More Behold Thee?
Stephen Foster’s Home Town Removes His Statue
By Barton Cockey
Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has joined the growing list of cities removing statues of white men. Stephen Collins Foster was the all-American composer, born on the fourth of July, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the same day that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died. He wrote some of the loveliest popular songs of all time.
According to news reports, critics of the statue took offense at the depiction of a black banjo player at the base of the monument. One black blogger wrote that it was “the most racist statue in America.” He admitted that although he had “walked or driven past the statue at least 300 times,” he never noticed it until he read an article about it. Now he is incensed beyond all measure, as are other sensitive souls in the steel city.
Paradise Gray, a hip-hop impresario appointed to the commission that deliberated over the fate of the monument, objected that it “permanently depicts the black man at the white man’s feet.” Mr. Gray’s objection could hypothetically be dealt with by detaching the banjo man and placing him atop a fourteen-foot column. Alas, that solution would not appease those who perceive him as a degrading stereotype, or who are angry that Foster practiced “cultural appropriation” upon the anonymous barefoot musician. Mr. Gray claims that Foster “is doing what the music industry does today: He’s got a slave playing the music, and he’s going to end up with the copyright.” Removing the banjo player altogether would seem to address most of the objections, but I guess that would be segregation. Can’t have that!
The mayor of Pittsburgh, a Democrat by the name of Bill Peduto, ran unopposed for his second term last November and won with 95% of the votes. So, he’s not exactly hanging on by a thread, politically speaking. There is no obvious reason for him to pander to cultural Marxists or anti-white radicals. His decision, based on a recommendation from a highly biased commission, suggests that he is a social justice warrior himself. He has endorsed replacing the Foster monument with a statue of (what else?) a black woman. His office is accepting suggestions. Of course, he couldn’t just put up a statue of some illustrious black female and leave Stephen Foster alone. He has to replace one with the other. The crassness of his thinking is remarkable. Any black woman will do.
There was a time when someone did something worthy of commemoration, and after a while, private citizens collected money to put up a monument in his honor. Not anymore. Now the city bureaucracy will select an identity group to idolize, and any placeholder will do as its representative. The individual identity of the honoree is irrelevant, as long as she belongs to the correct race. Whoever is chosen as the face of non-white, non-male, her statue will be a phony trophy, a booby prize.
One of the ironies of this drama is that Stephen Foster was a typical Yankee liberal. He supported all the right causes: temperance (“O Comrades Fill No Glass for Me”), abolitionism (“My Old Kentucky Home”), and Lincoln’s war against the South (“We Are Coming, Father Abraham, 300,000 More”). The icon of abolitionism Frederick Douglass, mentioned “My Old Kentucky Home” in his 1885 autobiography and lauded its ability to awaken “sympathies for the slave, in which antislavery principles take root, grow, and flourish.”
But rather than try to parse the programmed rhetoric of the statue’s opponents, let’s consider the symbolic meaning of the monument. Obviously, at the most literal level, it is about a white composer being inspired by a black musician. At the highest level of abstraction, it represents Apollo and Pan, sky cult and earth cult, written transmission and the oral tradition, Europe and Africa, Yang and Yin. In keeping with the ancient wisdom traditions, these light and dark elements are both necessary. Though opposite, they produce harmony. In the psychotic world of leftist ideology, Yin has to defeat Yang because Yang is the dominant white male hierarchy. From an archetypal perspective, the superordinate status of Apollo is neither good nor bad; it’s just the way things are. But the left is fundamentally at war against the structure of the universe, and it cannot accept that things are as they are.
That’s why the statue had to come down.