Remembering the bad old days of cold war propaganda when some bad old things were said about the soviets. On weekends the paper would feature pictures of stout russian women in heavy overcoats laboring in rail yards, such as that. On a more intellectual level the communist party was accused of disappearing people when they fell out of favor, scratching their names out of books and cutting them out of old group photos. Year by year the little oval portraits from the first party congress continued to disappear leaving pale little oval blanks behind the glass. What bastards.
Then I began to notice the tracings of people on this side officially forgotten. I was an adult before I ever heard the name Paul Robeson, a huge talent and personality shunned by american media presumably for challenging racial customs, and Rockwell Kent, once famous painter and pubic intellectual, who embraced the notion of communism and the Soviet Union, and was subsequently forgotten by general proclamation -- Rockwell who? His wide ranging illustrations, including incredible woodcuts, can still be found in books of certain vintage, an edition of Moby Dick, for example.
Suddenly in my hometown, in your hometown, all over the wind has shifted, deciding to blow back the other way for a while. Overnight we want new statues of new heroes, and we’ll want to get rid of the old ones. Nocturnal graffiti artists have expressed group disapproval on their pediments, and many want them carted away, out of sight--out of mind, disappeared. Doesn’t one wonder on occasion what sense of history each human would have if each succeeding civilization wasn’t intent on destroying every symbol of the previous -- temples and libraries, gods and thought processes.
Well they aren’t just symbols, these chunks of bronze downtown, but works of art built to outlast the fickle winds of society’s approval, and they’re still hanging around after the love has grown cold, cold. It’s bound to happen, songs are sung, but bronze is difficult to work with, lost wax, molding and pouring, and these are formidable accomplishments which might last damn near forever on their own. The one of Breckenridge isn’t inspiring, just pedantic, prosaic, and boring. It looks ordered from a catalogue -- go ahead, melt it down, but John Hunt Morgan on a horse, buttons on his tunic, spurs on his boots, the bogus equipment on his horse, a local whimsy, is really pretty nice. Not many artists and skilled shops could pull that off these days.
Calling John Hunt just a lowly horse thief is sure enough silly, since we know every statue of Sherman in front of a northern courthouse is and will be safe, and he outdid John at every turn, in every way -- but that was all so long ago. Who cares, at this point, who John Hunt Morgan really was, let it rest. By now he’s just a bronze equestrian dressed up in military regalia, looking sure of himself full of youth and romance -- let him stay.