Workers taking down the statue of Vladimir Lenin in Mongolia AFP/Getty Images

El poder de los monumentos

NUEVA YORK – El espectáculo desagradable de neonazis marchando el mes pasado en Charlottesville, Virginia, portando antorchas y vociferando eslóganes sobre la supremacía de la raza blanca, estuvo motivado por los planes de la ciudad de retirar una estatua de Robert E. Lee, el líder del ejército confederado, que luchó para conservar la esclavitud en el sur secesionista durante la Guerra Civil norteamericana. La estatua del general Lee en su caballo ha estado allí desde 1924, un momento en que el linchamiento de ciudadanos negros no era una rareza. 

Inspirados por los acontecimientos de Charlottesville, en Gran Bretaña han surgido voces que abogan por retirar al almirante Nelson de su famosa columna en la Plaza Trafalgar de Londres, porque el héroe naval británico respaldó el comercio de esclavos. Y hace dos años, manifestantes en la Universidad de Oxford exigieron que se retirara una escultura de Cecil Rhodes del Oriel College, donde el viejo imperialista alguna vez había estudiado, porque sus opiniones sobre la raza y el imperio hoy son consideradas aborrecibles.  

Siempre hubo algo mágico en torno a este tipo de iconoclastia, que descansa en la creencia de que destruir una imagen de alguna manera resolverá los problemas asociados con ella. Cuando los protestantes ingleses desafiaron el poder de la Iglesia Católica Romana en el siglo XVI, las turbas utilizaron martillos y hachas para hacer añicos santos tallados en piedra y otras representaciones sagradas. Revolucionarios del siglo XVIII hicieron lo mismo con las iglesias en Francia. El ejemplo más radical ocurrió en China hace poco más de cincuenta años, cuando los Guardias Rojos destruyeron templos budistas y quemaron libros confucianos -o, en verdad, cualquier cosa antigua y tradicional- para pregonar la Revolución Cultural.  

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