There's an ongoing debate online and in the media right now about our history and heritage, and about whether we should remove statues of historic figures based on a 21st century judgement of their actions. Obviously the Colston statue was torn down in Bristol this weekend, whilst today protesters have gathered in Oxford demanding that Cecil Rhodes be removed from Oxford University, and maps of other similarly 'offensive' statues are appearing with calls for their removal including former Monarchs and Prime Ministers.
My view on this is pretty clear and straightforward. We shouldn't be ripping down our history! End of story. Not everything involved in our history is comfortable, and not everything is good, to say the least. It's still our history though and we can't change it. You can't define people from the past as simply 'good' or 'bad' - characters are complex and context is important. Besides which, who gets to decide? There's no such thing as impartiality on this.
What starts with slave traders statues is a slippery slope. What about Ghandi? He wrote some pretty racist things in his early life. Nelson Mandela? Some people say he was a terrorist and condoned violence. Lord Nelson defended slavery. Twelve of our British Monarchs presided over the colonies... Churchill? The Romans had slaves, shall we tear down the Baths and the Aqueducts? Where does it end!? What will we have left?
In a country built on empire - in fact in a world which has largely been built on empire and war for centuries - there is very little history that isn't associated with things we don't like in some way!
We can deny it and pretend it didn't happen, banish it from our memories, or we can respect our heritage and learn from it. Preserve our history and teach the lessons of the past to our children, so we don't make the same mistakes again. It would be an insult, in my view, to those that have been caught up in the atrocities of the past to try and remove all trace of their plight from our lives. Those statues serve as a reminder and a discussion point. They are how we remember.
There is no good ending to a process of stripping out the bits of the past we don't like!