Charlottesville is interested in improving its image after a bunch of hate-filled ralliers successfully google-bombed it. Now you search for the name of our town and you find images of all these people who don’t live anywhere near here and were apparently visiting here on their very worst day in terms of morality, wardrobe, and spelling.
What can Charlottesville do to change the subject? Even finally finding the nerve and the decency to remove the redundantly labeled “racist war monuments” would only remind people of the fascist rally and leave behind all the other racist war monuments — which make up all the monuments across Charlottesville unless you count Lewis and Clark as non-racist peacemakers.
Newly glorifying — with some tweaks! — long-dead plutocrats who enslaved lots of people or came up with imperialist Doctrines for Latin America seems tricky at best. I wonder how much of my tax dollar is going to pay a PR firm to mull that over. Any amount is too much.
Come to think of it, I wonder how much is being spent on the trials and incarcerations coming out of the fascist rally. And I don’t need to wonder what was spent on the reenactment on the first anniversary by the police who at this point should take “incompetent” as a very generous characterization. It was $3 million. And that was a deal compared to the tens of millions spent on redesigning road intersections.
So, here’s an idea. At the very next opportunity to upgrade some pavement or militarize the city for a day, don’t do it. Instead, dump all that money into a box labeled “Non-Stupid Ideas.”
I was in Santa Cruz, California, recently, and they had there a beautiful pair of monuments, one to their sister cities, and one to “collateral damage,” also known as bombing victims around the world. Charlottesville has sister cities, but no monument to them. Imagine one so beautiful it takes over web searches for the city’s name. Charlottesville’s City Council has opposed as many wars and military budgets as Berkeley, but it doesn’t even have a $10 Peace Pole. Maybe leave one reflector off a guard rail or give one cop a lunch break, and make peace visible on the cityscape. Or just hold a contest for who can have the honor of paying for it.
Charlottesville has now and has had for many, many years gobs of talented artists, musicians, scholars, activists, educators, organizers, authors, and public leaders. Where are the monuments and memorials to any of them or their causes or their movements. Where are all of the victims and heroes and stories of the past centuries of life and death here?
The City put together a special commission that came up with ideas for new public monuments. We see other cities acting on such ideas, just as we’ve seen other cities take down their mass-murder-celebrating-monstrosities since the fascist rally in Charlottesville.
Charlottesville has more reason than anywhere else to put up new public art. It is covered with bad public art and refuses to take it down. Nobody has ever claimed that it cannot put up new public art. Doing so has always been popular, though never acted upon. The city and state are awash in money for highways and police. Charlottesville has sculptors. Charlottesville has rich philanthropists. Charlottesville wants to change the conversation.
Give us something to change it to.