The fascist violence in Charlottesville was in defence of prominent public statues to those who fought to uphold slavery. History should not be destroyed, and there is a place for such statues in appropriate explained context in museums. But public celebration of advocates of slavery ought to end. People always throw off the monuments of their oppressors, and so they should. The statues should be removed from their prestigious positions.
Hardly anybody remembers now that O’Connell Street in Dublin was Sackville Street. You will scour Ireland with little success for surviving statues of British Imperial rulers and commanders – there were once hundreds. I found that Burnes Road in Karachi is no more. Uzbekistan and Ukraine are no longer dotted with great statues of Lenin.
Yet I live here in a city which still has a Cumberland Street, named after a disgusting war criminal who perpetrated long term and systematic atrocities on this very people whose capital city is desecrated by his name. Cumberland was a worse racist and an infinitely greater war criminal than Robert E Lee. Yet I hear not a whisper to echo the brave roar of Charlottesville. The imposed regime which crushed Scotland, outlawed its major language and much of its culture and tried to expunge even the memory of its history and native culture, is celebrated in the heart of the nation. Hanover Street, George Street, Rose Street, Princes Street. These vicious, arrogant, Scot-hating people really did crush Scotland’s spirit, to the extent we still cringe before them now they are long dead.
It staggers me that, after we have decades of an element of home rule by alleged Scottish Nationalists and an alleged Labour Party, when even the pathetic colonial status of the devolution settlement gives the power to rename a few streets, Labour and the SNP, as the minimum gesture of self-awareness and a tiny, tiny glimmer of self-respect, have not renamed Cumberland Street after Keir Hardie.
Yes, we have always suffered from a parcel of rogues in a nation. Yet we remain a parcel of cowards as a nation. The brave left wing demonstrators of Charlottesville, supporting the removal of Robert E Lee against the violence of the fascists, put us to deep shame.