Oliver Stone and Confederate Monuments
Some conservatives may have issues with Hollywood director Oliver Stone. But in the wake of the recent horror in Charlottesville and the uproar over Confederate statues, I’m reminded of the segment in his 2017 The Putin Interviews when Stone ventures out into Red Square to visit the Kremlin Wall Necropolis. He strolls past the graves of Brezhnev, Dzerzhinsky, Andropov, and then comes upon the resting place of one Joseph Stalin, heavyweight contender for the title of History’s Biggest Monster. Standing before Stalin’s grave with its accompanying statue, Stone said this (source, pdf-page 31):
The most famous, uh, villain in history next to Adolf, according to many people, Joseph Stalin. To the people on the, of the revolution in the left, for which, uh, communism meant a change, and better change for the workers, he was a disaster in the sense that he left a horrible reputation, uh, and stained the ideology forever.
That reminded me of the scene in Stone’s 1994 Natural Born Killers where two longhaired teen boys are asked for TV what they think about Mickey and Mallory, the movie’s glamorous celebrity killers:
BOY 1: I'm not saying, you know, I believe in mass murder or that shit, but … don't get us wrong.
BOY 2: Yeah, you know, we respect human life and all.
BOY 1: But, if I was a mass murderer, I'd be Mickey and Mallory.
Yes, but isn’t which mass murderer one wants to be really just a matter of taste, i.e. personal preferences? Watch this video for 12 seconds if the dialog amuses you. And now back to Oliver Stone in Red Square:
Uh, wh - it's mixed with blood and, and terror. But he did play a huge role in World War Two, and was a very close ally with, uh, the U.S. during World War Two. M-Mister Trotsky, no? Where is he? Ask - no Trotsky, right? Stalin, uh, managed to erase, uh, Trotsky's memory. He ended up being killed in Mexico by Stalin's agents. Let's go. On Stalin. He said that, you know, he's said negative things about Stalin, uh, and of course, he's widely condemned in the world. But, at the same time, we all know that he led, uh, Russia to victory over Germany, over fascism. And, uh, what does he make of that, by, by, uh, let's say that ambiguity?
Confession: Despite his leftist politics, I admire some of Stone’s films; e.g. I think he did a fine job on Nixon, (my favorite progressive). I couldn’t find a video of his stroll in Red Square, but here’s a short video of where Stone was; you’ll notice the bust of “Uncle Joe,” as FDR was fond of calling him.
I cannot confirm whether history is being taught properly in post-Soviet Russia, but if there are any Russians who still revere Stalin, I’d bet they have one foot in the grave, but maybe not. And Stalin’s not the only monster honored in death; the mummified remains of Lenin are nearby, (which Stone visited, as I recall). One doubts that Russians think highly of Napoleon Bonaparte, who brought ruin to much of Europe. The French, however, still seem to lionize him, even naming a pastry and a cognac after him. And lest we forget, on May Day the Chinese are treated to Mao’s image, another world leader lackadaisical about human life.
The point of dragging The Putin Interviews (trailer) into the current flap over Confederate monuments is to show that other nations - that many in the Left think are ever so much nicer than America - continue to honor mass-murdering tyrants through their statuary. And the crimes of these still-celebrated thugs are far worse than anything military leaders of the Old South ever committed.
Everyone in America now agrees that slavery is a monstrous crime. But is it as monstrous as deliberately starving millions of citizens as Stalin did in Ukraine?
Americans who think the most important thing we can do right now is to pull down a bunch of statues might consider that what they want to do with rebel monuments is exactly what Stalin did do: erase history. Stalin was known for airbrushing out every new persona non grata from official photos. The murderous Khmer Rouge also had ways of nullifying history:
The idea behind Year Zero was that the existing society within Cambodia had to be completely destroyed or discarded and a new revolutionary culture had to replace it from scratch. All history of the nation [before] Year Zero was deemed largely irrelevant and had to be purged and replaced from the ground up.
Ideas like Year Zero are old; French revolutionaries had their Year One, and even started their own calendar. (The past must go.) I don’t know if any statues of Pol Pot exist in today’s Cambodia, but his method was all about destroying the past, and starting over. We should hope that is not “who we are.”
Stone speaks of “ambiguity” with regard to Stalin. The ability to grapple with ambiguity has never been the strong suit of the Left. One wonders if any in the anti-Confederate statues mob ever dons a Che Guevara T-shirt. And consider the rich ambiguity of tax scofflaw “Reverend” Al Sharpton complaining of how tax dollars are being used to pay for the maintenance of rebel statuary.
Nowadays, many Americans seem to be offended by just about everything. But we have no God-given right not to be offended. Conservatives were offended by the inane utterances of Barack Obama for eight years, but we soldiered on. Before the South seceded, Johnny Reb was our fellow countryman, even our brother. We must learn to live with uncomfortable ambiguities, such as this one: The greatest political minds in history were America’s Founders, and some of them owned slaves. So get over it. It’s time for the mob to move on.
America has so many huge problems right now - dysfunctional government, terrorism, stealth jihad, the rollover of federal debt (which starts in earnest in October), the opioid crisis, you name it - that one might think that folks wouldn’t have time to worry about nonthreatening things like old statues. But no, the Left wants to control the narrative, the language, and the past.
As they say in the upper reaches of Westeros: the North remembers. And so should we all, especially our history.