Gandhi, We Hardly Knew Ye

Statue toppling continues apace. This is from a Davis, California newspaper:

The statue in Davis’ Central Park of Mohandas K. Gandhi, the Indian lawyer and independence leader, was found Wednesday morning toppled and lying on the grass next to its plinth. The 6-foot-tall, 950-pound bronze likeness appeared to have been sawed off at the ankles and half its face was severed and missing.

The Gandhi statue was somewhat controversial when it was erected in 2015:

Critics of the statue argued that, despite his achievements, Gandhi had character flaws so reprehensible that he should not be memorialized in a public park. “It is undisputed that Gandhi was a hero to many,” Sacramento businessman Amar Shergill said at the meeting. “He was also a bigot and predator of members of his own family.”

Gandhi was a bigot, but that was nowhere near his worst fault.

Last June, in the wake of racial justice protests that targeted Confederate and white supremacist statues across the United States, the Gandhi statue was spray painted with expletives and the word “rapist.”

“Confederate and white supremacist statues?” Grant? Washington? Lincoln? Douglass? This is one of many thousands of instances one could cite, where newspapers report as fact statements that are obviously untrue, but that align with Democratic Party propaganda.

Gandhi had contempt for blacks, and he was more or less a Nazi sympathizer, urging Jews to go along with Nazi policies and strictures–non-violence, you know.

In an 1896 speech in Mumbai, Gandhi said the Europeans in South Africa wished “to degrade us to the level of the raw kaffir whose occupation is hunting, and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with, and then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness.” Elsewhere, Gandhi said Black South Africans, whom he referred to using a racial slur, “are troublesome, very dirty and live like animals.”

I have long thought, and I believe I wrote on this site quite a few years ago, that Gandhi is the most over-rated person in modern history. His greatest fault, in my opinion, was not his bigotry, let alone his weird sexual practices, but rather the fact that he pressed for Indian independence at a time, and under circumstances, when the inevitable consequence was the death of hundreds of thousands or even millions of people. No one really knows the numbers. It was not just foreseeable but inevitable that, as British power withdrew, conflict between Muslims and Hindus would result in the bloodbath that actually occurred. Gandhi, I think, bears direct, if only partial, responsibility for those deaths, estimated at up to two million.

So I disagree with those who say that Gandhi was a flawed man who achieved great things, like, to take just one example, Thomas Jefferson. In my opinion, the most damning indictment of Gandhi lies not in his personal foibles, but in his public career.

But still, the question persists: why do we erect statues of men and women? What are we implying when we commemorate them? That they were flawless? That they were better men and women than we are, or better than the common run of humanity? That they played important roles in our (or someone’s) history? That, putting aside whatever faults they may have had, they possessed some virtue–courage, for example–in a degree that should inspire us?

These are questions that public authorities should consider going forward. Meanwhile, those who destroy statues, including statues of people whom I do not admire, like Gandhi, are criminals and should be prosecuted and imprisoned.