The False Equivalence of the Lenin Statue in the Confederate Memorial Debate
In the wake of Charlottesville, when toppling Confederate statues and memorials not only became the topic of the day but a good idea, Seattle's embattled mayor Ed Murray brought an odd wrinkle to the conversation. He suggested two memorials in Seattle come down: a 1926 Daughters of the Confederacy memorial to Southern vets, which was on private property in Lakeview Cemetery; and the famous statue of Vladimir Lenin, perpetually on display in lower Fremont ... which was also on private property.
I was surprised to hear that the Confederate memorial even existed. Confederate Vets? In Seattle? But whatever: It was on private property. We had no say. Lenin, too. What bugged me, though, was that Murray put the two in the same category. Was he striving for objectivity? One of theirs, one of ours? If so, like many a journalist before him, he simply found a false equivalence.
The Confederate memorial was created to honor the Confederacy. The Lenin statue, brought here from a defeated Russia and placed where it was, on a nondescript street corner, wasn't set up to honor anything. The opposite, really. From the beginning, it's been steeped in absurdity and irony. Existing where it does, it carries with it an Ozymandias-like warning:
'Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains ... except for a gyro joint and some Italian sandwich shoppe
And naked cyclists once a year
This week in The Stranger I found out somebody agrees with me: a Russian to boot. He adds a coda: Look on the dildo on my head, ye mighty, and despair.