Dear City Commissioner Mary Moe:
It was about Columbus Day, and I was seriously asking.
I first asked it on Facebook on October 11. Around the same time, the same text appeared in the Tribune as a letter to the editor. On December 7, I reposted it on E-City Beat. Four days later, I followed up with yet another post, asking:
“Should the citizens of Great Falls expect Mary Moe to pursue and advance such a policy to selectively rewrite history and act as judge and jury for naming rights and the rescission of existing historic acknowledgements?”
And what was your response to my legitimate inquiry? Crickets.
Perhaps it is inconvenient for you, as an elected official, to have to answer policy questions from constituents. All the same, I have been asking — for over three months now — first as a voter and now as a constituent, a question that you curiously refuse to answer, despite its straightforwardness: as a city commissioner, what should be the city’s monument policy?
As a legislator, and to a sympathetic audience in the Montana Cowgirl blog, you called for an end to Columbus Day as we know it. Fair enough. You and I, along with others on both sides, can agree to disagree.
But I can’t help but wonder… what is the logical bounds of your virtue signaling? In other words, Columbus was a “brutal maniac” as you write, but Merriwether Lewis and William Clark, both so central to the historical and cultural heritage of Great Falls, were slaveowners. Clark in particular was a brutal slaveowner who badly mistreated his “property.” Does that not also bother you? If it is morally upright to legislate an end to Columbus Day, shouldn’t local governments also do whatever feasible to eradicate monuments against, you know, slavery? Oh, and by the way, just overlooking city offices in Gibson Park (and on city property) stands a statue of Captain John Mullan:
Keith Petersen’s book, John Mullan: The Tumultuous Life of a Western Road Builder, asserts that John Mullan was a racist. He was upset that the Civil War was being waged on behalf of African Americans and slavery rather than maintaining the union, yet also felt that secession was a “fraud” and that war would only lead to devastation. He believed that government was “a white man’s government” and that laws should be written “by white men, for the benefit of white men.” He believed “negro suffrage was forced upon the people”, opposed Asian immigration (except for commercial purposes, such as coolie labor), and opposed naturalization of Asian immigrants. “There is no way to whitewash Mullan’s racism,” historian Keith Petersen has written. “Even for his time and that place, his opinions were vile”
Will you crusade against Mullan, too? Where do you personally draw the line? From a policy standpoint, if the killing of others should earn symbolic disqualification from the Montana Capitol (and presumably, from the Civic Center chambers as well), shouldn’t a similar standard apply for monuments inexorably tied to the the enslaving and torturing of other human beings? In your estimation, should Great Falls embrace or abandon its past — one discovered and developed in part by its slave-beating masters? I would sincerely like to know.
Lest anyone think this isn’t a small matter that you’re not personally invested or conversant in, I would remind them that in your bid for city commission, you dedicated an entire section to monuments on your campaign website: “Refining Our Processes” (I love the title, by the way)…
“We recently saw several examples of cities tearing down monuments in the heat of the reaction to the events in Charlotte, NC. [Author’s Note: I believe you meant Charlottesville, Virginia, but please correct me if I’m wrong. Many people confuse the two locales.] Having written policies for establishing and/or discontinuing such memorials forces a community and its governing body to take a step back from the emotion of the moment and apply the standards created for such a situation in the cool voice of reason. Does the City of Great Falls have a naming policy for monuments and memorials on city property? We should – and the policy should provide guidance for how that honor might be rescinded.”
OK, then. So using “the cool voice of reason” (and/or, your own personal standard of moral relativism), would you mind imparting to me and the rest of your constituents exactly what the city’s monuments policy should look like?
I’ve been asking for three months now, and you’ve said nothing. And it’s not just me. I’ve received dozens of comments from folks across the political spectrum who would simply like to know where you stand. I also know you’re reading this blog. Two days ago, Angry Reader Dennis Granlie popped off with another ad hominem drive-by (thanks for your substantive contribution as always, Mr. Granlie), one that you “liked”:
I realize it’s easier to passive-aggressively join in league with one’s ideological tribemates on social media as you did here than to earnestly articulate an actual position. Bravo. But as a concerned citizen and taxpaying constituent of the City of Great Falls, I would rather hear from you where you actually stand on an issue — this issue. We may (again) agree to disagree, but I think you owe the public a substantive and honest explanation of your position.
I sincerely hope that, on this if nothing else, we can at least agree.
Very truly yours,
Philip M. Faccenda