President Trump filled his diaper on Twitter yesterday morning while weeping over the “beauty” that would be lost by removing Confederate monuments.
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called yesterday for the removal of Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol, saying the statues “in the halls of Congress have always been reprehensible,” and Democratic senator Cory Booker is planning to draft legislation removing the statues.
The merits of the issue aside, are these statues actually beautiful?
We all know about the disturbing statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, which glares threateningly onto I-65 from private land in Nashville. No one, not even that statue’s mother, could say it is beautiful.
But surely, among all of this nation’s Confederate statues, the most beautiful and luxurious of them must be at the U.S. Capitol, the People’s Chamber, the Democracy Bowl, the Big American Politics House With A Titty On Top.
I went on a tour of this most hallowed building to find out.
As Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post wrote this week, the U.S. Capitol hosts three times as many statues of Confederate figures than of black people. The National Statuary Hall Collection at the U.S. Capitol includes, depending on how you define your terms, up to twelve statues of men who fought for the Confederacy “or were active in Confederate politics,” including the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. Every statue in the collection is a gift to the Capitol from one of the states; each state is allowed to send up to two. Not all the figures are politicians or military figures: The collection also includes statues of Hellen Keller, Thomas Edison, and King Kamehameha I of Hawaii. Congress has also added other statues to the Capitol that aren’t part of the Statuary Hall collection from the states, including ones of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.
The tour begins in the Crypt, which was built with the creepy intention of housing George Washington’s body. Washington’s body actually remained at Mount Vernon, as he desired it should, so instead the Crypt hosts a few statues. As the tour guide told us, these statues represent one of the ways “we honor people here at the Capitol.”
Among the honorees in the Crypt: General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia in the Civil War. Yeah. That Robert E. Lee.
Look at this fucking belted moron. Belt much? Walking stick much? Tassels much?
Chin up, Bob, you’ve got a shitload of roads and schools named after you now.
Across the Crypt from Lee sits a huge Lincoln head, looking unimpressed.
Also in the Crypt is John C. Calhoun, who died more than a decade before the Civil War began but is so well-known for being such an enormous shithead that he must be mentioned here. (Ingraham also included him in his list.) Calhoun made a speech on the floor of the Senate describing slavery as “a positive good” and arguing that slavery had made black people more civilized. Our tour guide described him only as “one of the best speakers in Congressional history.”
Here he is looking sassy and fresh in the Crypt, steppin’ out to give a fire speech about slavery being good.
I want him to teach me how to do that hand-on-hip pose; it’s natural and very slimming.
Is that... a beard, poking out of his collar, fully under his jaw line? Or over-enthusiastic chest hair? And seriously, what the fuck is with his eyes? He looks like some prankster put googly eyes on him.
Another non-Confederate but still total fuckhead honored in the Crypt is Charles Aycock, whom the Washington Post described as “a leading spokesman for the Democratic Party’s white supremacist activities” in North Carolina. In 1903—almost forty years after the end of the Civil War—Aycock gave a speech on the “negro problem,” saying: “Let the negro learn once for all that there is unending separation of the races.” Aycock worked with Democratic legislators to pass a “grandfather clause,” exempting white voters from the literacy test that was designed to exclude black voters; these clauses were a key component of Jim Crow laws in North Carolina and other states.
Here’s a nice big statue of him pointing at a book, which is presumably titled I AM A BIG RACIST SHITHEAD: A MEMOIR.
Aycock? More like A Cock. You’re a bald cock, Charles, shove your book up your ass. You look like a pea. You look like Bashar al-Assad.
(Following the the passage of a law in 2015, North Carolina will likely send a statue of Billy Graham to replace Mr. Cock.)
Statuary Hall itself is home to arguably the biggest Confederate turds. Perhaps the most significant of these turds: Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, whose statue was sent to the Capitol by his home state of Mississippi. It would be hard to be more of a traitor, and more committed to preserving slavery, than being the guy who ran the Confederacy. Yet here he stands, next to Henry Mower Rice, who is not thrilled about it.
I don’t know why they all have these awful capes. He looks like he’s wearing a duvet.
Actually, he looks like Tom Baker’s Doctor Who. Put a stupid scarf on him and shove him in a phone box and you’ve got a beloved Time Lord instead of a racist shit. He definitely has among the worst hair seen in Statuary Hall—he needs a round brush and a good hairdryer.
The award for the most balls-out indefensible statue must go to Alexander Hamilton Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy, the man who made it clear that the Confederate States of America was founded on chattel slavery and that their rebellion was about nothing but the defense of that institution.
What a horrible face! He looks even more skeletal than Jefferson Davis, except he also looks like he just realized he shat himself and is eternally unable to uncross his legs.
But what’s this quote on Stephens’ plinth?
Afraid of nothing except to do wrong, hm? I’ve got bad news for you, Al: you fucked up big time!!
Here’s another quote from Stephens they could have used instead, from his 1861 “Cornerstone” speech: “Our new government is founded upon exactly [this] idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.” Meanwhile, the Statuary Hall website describes him as “a dedicated statesman, an effective leader, and a powerful orator,” making no mention of this famous speech. The statue sits five places down from the statue of Rosa Parks.
Some other lesser-known Confederate fucks in Statuary Hall include Joseph “Fightin’ Joe” Wheeler, a cavalry commander in the armies of Tennessee and Mississippi:
Hey Joe, I don’t think your gloves are big enough, maybe you should try getting some bigger gloves.
And Zebulon Vance, the governor of North Carolina during the Confederacy and a slaveowner.
Hahahaha wait, this tubby Wilford Brimley-lookin Uncle Vernon-ass walrus is named Zebulon? Might as well pin a sign to his back saying KICK MY SLAVEOWNING ASS.
In conclusion, these statues are not beautiful. They are fine, I suppose, as statues go. They’re hardly Michelangelo-esque sculptures. They are certainly not so breathtakingly wonderful as to require their continued presence in the home of American representative democracy. As Matt Ford wrote at the Atlantic, these men “prolonged the life of an institution that brought indescribable suffering and horrors to millions,” and if lawmakers truly reject the hateful ideology of the white supremacists who terrorized Charlottesville, “the only logical conclusion is to expel it from their own halls and chambers as well.”
Removing these statues is morally correct thing to do, and the only course that would truly uphold the ideals that politicians like to say America is all about. But don’t hold your breath for Republican lawmakers to give a shit about that: Paul Ryan has already said it’s up to the states, which means the arduous work of winning the argument for why these statues are so reprehensible must be done state-by-state. Expect the ghoulish face of Alexander Stephens and his repugnant, racist politics to haunt the halls of Congress for a long time.