OPINION: Picking saints, sinners

Amid all the hubbub surrounding the end of the General Assembly session, many of us may have missed a provision tucked into the state budget that would remove the statue of Capt. John Mason, leader of the 1637 massacre that historians say killed more than 400 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe. The Puritans under Mason joined with the Mohegans to attack the Pequots at Mystic and Stonington. Most of the surviving Pequots were sold into slavery. This was called The Pequot War.

This is pre-American history, because Mason was a British colonizer, but it is also American and Connecticut history. And Mason now gazes down on Hartford from his perch at the base of the Capitol dome. (Yes, former Gov. Ella Grasso is up there too, but State Hero Nathan Hale is kept indoors.)

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation supported this year’s bill, and the law now says Mason must come down. 

Not a first for Mason: Groton was able to get another statue of him removed to Windsor some years ago, and now that town has to deal with it.

This is all part of the movement for historical justice, as the “woke” people on the left cast it, or the “cancel culture” now being execrated by the right.

Confederate battle flags are being removed from places of honor down South. Good — why on earth should we honor the emblem of an enemy that made war on the U.S., any more than we’d revere a Swastika or a Rising Sun? And the treasonous leaders of that war are having their statues removed as well.

In 2017, Yale took John C. Calhoun’s name off one college because of Calhoun’s legacy as a white supremacist who passionately promoted slavery as a “positive good.” It appears this was not so much a proactive educational move as a reaction after an employee attacked a window there depicting happy slaves picking cotton.

It gets a little stickier when it comes to Christopher Columbus, whose image has also come under attack of late, including in New Haven and Southington. This may be a tough sell in Connecticut, with our substantial Italian-American population, but let’s face it: he didn’t “discover” any place that wasn’t already occupied. He enslaved the native people, with extreme violence and brutality, even having rebellious slaves killed and their dead bodies paraded through the streets of what is now the Dominican Republic.

Which brings us to George Washington, famously known as the “Father of His Country” but also, to the Iroquois Indians of the time, the “Town Destroyer” because he had waged the largest-ever campaign against the Indians in North America, a campaign of “total destruction and devastation” from which the Iroquois Confederacy never recovered.

Wrapping up: Robert E. Lee was a traitor. Calhoun was a despicable man. Columbus probably got an official day mainly to balance the customary one the Irish already had, but he did horrible things. So did Mason. And so did Washington, who even now smiles out at us (if you can call that a smile) from the dollar bill.

But what are we supposed to do with these guys? Who can stay and who must go? And how do we decide? How “woke” are we prepared to be?

I’m at a loss.

Reach Glenn Richter at grichter@record-journal.com.


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