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作者:Eliot A. Cohen

译者:田阳光 & 李蕾



A Profoundly Unserious Way of Dealing With the Past


As statues topple across the country, Americans need to distinguish between the problematic or objectionable and the irredeemably wrong.


There is, near a state capitol, statuary of a dominant white man on horseback, surrounded by African Americans. He is clearly in charge, and they are held together by an externally imposed discipline of a particularly tough kind. A white woman hovers over all. Dedicated in 1897, it is about as racialized a piece of bronze as the era of the Lost Cause could produce. Should it be taken down?



Of course not. The statuary in question is the Robert Gould Shaw memorial, opposite the statehouse in Boston, which commemorates Colonel Shaw and the soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, only the second black regiment raised in the North. Shaw famously led the 54th in the desperate but failed assault on Fort Wagner in July 1863, where it sustained 40 percent casualties. The victorious rebels threw Shaw’s body into a pit with his fallen soldiers. Shaw’s family later refused to let him be exhumed for separate burial, preferring that his bones be forever mingled with theirs.

当然不能,这一被质疑的雕像正是罗伯特·古尔德·肖(Robert Gould Shaw)纪念碑,它伫立在波士顿州议会大厦对面,是为了纪念肖上校以及马萨诸塞第54志愿步兵团的士兵们而建造。作为第二个在北方建立的黑人军队,肖所领导的第54志愿步兵团于1863年7月在绝望中对瓦格纳堡发起了著名的破釜沉舟的进攻,战役失败,造成了四成人员伤亡。胜利的叛军将肖的尸体和倒下的士兵一起扔进了坑里。肖的家人后来拒绝把他的尸体挖出来单独埋葬,而是希望他的尸骨和他的士兵们永远在一起。


However, at the end of May 2020, the memorial was vandalized with some of the slogans of this moment.


Statues are toppling—even that of Theodore Roosevelt in front of the Museum of Natural History in New York; even that of Ulysses S. Grant, the general most responsible for the crushing of the Confederacy. In Britain, the statue of Winston Churchill outside the Houses of Parliament has been defaced by graffiti. As the daughter of a friend sourly remarked, “They seem not to have heard about the other guy.”

雕像在被推倒—即使是伫立在纽约自然历史博物馆前面的西奥多·罗斯福(Theodore Roosevelt)雕像,抑或是尤利西斯·格兰特(Ulysses S. Grant)这位粉碎南部联盟的将军也都不能幸免。在英国,国会大厦外的温斯顿·丘吉尔(Winston Churchill)的雕像也被涂鸦损毁。正如一位朋友的女儿的酸涩之言:“他们好像没有听说过其他人。”

Yet surely some statues, some memorials, some place names and portraits should come down. As David Petraeus has pointed out in The Atlantic, it has long been absurd to have American military installations named for Confederate generals; and one cannot defend keeping a statue of Jefferson Davis or Alexander Stephens in a public building other than a museum. So where should we draw the line?

诚然,一些雕像、纪念碑、地名和肖像应该被销毁,正如大卫·彼得雷乌斯(David Petraeus)在《大西洋月刊》(The Atlantic)上所言,长期以来,将美国军事设施冠以南方邦联将军的名字是非常荒谬的,在博物馆以外的公共建筑中保留杰斐逊·戴维斯(Jefferson Davis)或者亚历山大·斯蒂芬斯(Alexander Stephens)雕像的行为也无可辩护。那么,我们的界限到底在哪里?

A good place to begin is by asking whether the evil a man or woman did is the most important fact of his or her life. With regard to the Confederate generals, that is unquestionably the case. Robert E. Lee would have been a footnote in the history books had he not foresworn his allegiance to the Constitution and done his formidable best not only to rend the Union asunder, but to defend the system of chattel slavery. As Lincoln once wrote, “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” The sheer, murderous wickedness of the Confederate cause, long lost in mythologizing and willful ignorance, is unambiguous.

一个合理的出发点是确认某人所做之恶是否是他或她生命中最重要的事实。对联盟将军而言,这是毫无疑问的。假使罗伯特·李(Robert E. Lee)没有放弃他对宪法的忠诚并且竭尽所能,不仅仅分裂联盟军,而且捍卫奴隶制度,他本应该在历史书本中有一个脚注。正如林肯(Lincoln)曾说,“如果奴隶没有错,那就没有错。”联盟事业纯粹、凶残的邪恶在神话化和有意的无知中迷失了太久,这一点是毋庸置疑的。

But of other radically flawed individuals, a different judgment should be made. John F. Kennedy was a sexual predator, as we now know. We should not, however, take his name off the Kennedy Center, and we should not fail to be moved by the clarion call of his inaugural address. Thomas Jefferson was not merely a slaveholder, but a particularly callous one. He was willing to inflict suffering, preying on vulnerable enslaved women and breaking up families. But he also gave America the Declaration of Independence and its principles, which transcend the deeply flawed mortal who wrote them down. We can similarly recognize and wrestle with the flaws—some of them considerable—of the likes of Roosevelt, Grant, and Churchill without losing sight of their accomplishments.

但是对于其他有根本性缺陷的人,我们应该做出不同的判断。正如我们所知,约翰·肯尼迪(John F. Kennedy)是一名性侵者。然而我们不应该将他的名字从肯尼迪中心去掉,也不能不被他就职演说中动人的呼吁所感动。托马斯·杰斐逊(Thomas Jefferson)不仅仅是一个奴隶主,更是一个特别无情冷酷的奴隶主。他总是给人带来痛苦,掠夺脆弱的奴隶女性,破坏家庭,但是他也贡献了美国《独立宣言》和它的原则,而这些原则超越了写下这些宣言的有严重缺陷的凡人。同样,我们也会认识到诸如罗斯福、格兰特和丘吉尔等人的缺陷,有些是相当大的缺陷,并且与之斗争,而不会忽略他们的成就。


And there are difficult judgments to be made. What of Andrew Jackson, the victor of the Battle of New Orleans, a democrat rebelling against the rule of established, moneyed elites—but also the political leader principally responsible for the genocidal Trail of Tears?

对此,有时要做出艰难的判断。安德鲁·杰克逊(Andrew Jackson)是新奥尔良战役的胜利者,一个反抗既得利益、富有者精英统治的民主党人–但同时也是对种族灭绝的 “血腥行径”负有主要责任的政治领袖,我们又该如何看待他呢?

There are two other principles here. One is that there is one kind of conversation when a person is about to be memorialized; quite another when the monument already exists and its obliteration is intended to remove painful memories of a past that was real. For that reason, there is a higher bar for the removal of Confederate statues than for putting new ones up—yet even so, that higher bar is easily met. But if it’s perfectly reasonable to say that we should not be naming something new after Woodrow Wilson, a bigot throughout his career, whether we should strip his name off a school and a research center that already exist is much less clear.

这里还有另外两项原则。当将要纪念一个人时,存在一种讨论;而当纪念碑已经存在,它的消失是为了消除过去真实的痛苦回忆,这就是另一回事了。因此,废除南方邦联雕像的标准比建立新雕像的标准要高——尽管如此,这个标准还是很容易达到的。但是,如果我们有理由认为不应该以伍德罗·威尔逊(Woodrow Wilson)的名字来命名新事物,因他在其整个职业生涯中都是偏执狂,那么我们是否应该把他的名字从一所已经存在的学校和研究中心中去掉呢?这一问题就不那么清楚了。

The other principle is that the decision needs to be made carefully, and with thought, discussion, and justification; dissenting views must be treated with respect, no matter where the outcome lies. The model here is Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s speech of May 19, 2017, explaining his decision to remove Confederate statuary from New Orleans. The thoughtfulness and consideration he showed in no way diminished the force of his remarks, unflinching in what he said not only about slavery but about the lynchings and brutality of the years after 1865. Nor did his candor diminish the high-minded, optimistic patriotism of his rhetoric and his celebration of the Declaration of Independence and Lincoln’s second inaugural, two of the sacred texts of America’s civic religion.

另一个原则是,做决定时需要慎重,而且要经过思考、讨论和论证;无论结果如何,都必须尊重不同意见。这里的典范是米奇·兰德里欧(Mitch Landrieu)市长在2017年5月19日的演讲,他解释了自己为何决定从新奥尔良移除邦联雕像。他所表现出的深思熟虑丝毫没有削弱他言论的力量,谈及奴隶制以及1865年后的私刑和暴行时,他毫不畏惧。他的坦率也没有减少他言论中的高尚而乐观的爱国主义精神,也未减弱他对《独立宣言》和林肯第二次就职演讲词这两篇美国公民宗教的神圣文本的颂扬。

Americans are living, as they so often have, through a moment fraught with violence and hope, in which they see both their aspirations and their fears in the news and in their hearts. One of those fears is of having to confront the complex history of their country and of their heroes. In that respect, some of the decisions of the moment are about not confronting difficulty but wishing it away, which is a malady of the spirit. It is much harder, braver, and better to wrestle with the conundrum of Jefferson’s anguished declaration that “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever” than to remove him from sight in a spasm of preening righteousness.


The issue here is not merely physical assaults on statues, but a failure to distinguish between the problematic or objectionable and the irredeemably wrong, an attempt either to airbrush into anodyne gauziness the history represented by our monuments and named buildings, or to distort it into a long tale of oppression unrelieved by decency or even human complexity. Our current conversation is not taking seriously the problem of context, of how to judge the failures of previous generations, and it reflects a curious assumption that we may not seem equally retrograde and morally obtuse to future generations. This is, in short, a profoundly unserious way of dealing with the past.


Moral judgment can coexist with humility and perspective. In his remarks, Landrieu, a Democrat, approvingly quoted George W. Bush, a Republican, at the dedication of the National Museum of African American History and Culture: “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.” That sounds strangely out of mode just now. But its truth illuminates a path forward for an agonized country.

道德判断可以与谦逊和观点共存。正如民主党人兰德里欧(Landrieu)在发言中赞许地引用了共和党人乔治·W·布什(George W. Bush)在非裔美国人历史文化国家博物馆落成典礼上的话,”一个伟大的国家不会隐藏它的历史。它面对自己的缺陷,并纠正它们。” 这话现在听起来很奇怪,有些过时。但它的真理为身陷痛苦的国家指明了一条前进的道路。

  • 本文原载于 The Atlantic


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