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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Avenue of Heroes and Ghosts

How many cities have an avenue of heroes? In my limited experience this is one of the few, at least in the U.S. Other countries have their cults of personalities, Kim Il Sung in North Korea, Castro in Cuba, Mao in China, Saddam, well you get the idea, but Richmond has it's Avenue of Heroes, better known as Monument Ave. One of Richmond's nicknames is Monument City. All in all I can think of worse things to be known for. I remember the gross reporting on the Arthur Ashe statue. Those on both sides took advantage of ignorance and hostility to promote their own causes. Thankfully I was far away and missed that orgy of egos. I can see where Richmond's history of bitterness springs more from it's recent than ancient past. All I know is I drive down a beautiful avenue, full of history, architecture, churches and festivals. Whatever it's dubious past, it is a gem of the city and almost all except the sectarian few appreciate it's serenity and grandeur. Ask yourself, would Richmond be a better place without it? There's a simple obvious answer to that question, No!

That said, the addition of Arthur Ashe helped redeem this tribute to a dubious past. I may be one of the few people who publicly appreciate it both aesthetically and morally. I think there are quite a few people who agree with me. Screw the art critics and be inspired by the symbol and the man and be proud that he was one of ours.

Sunday, weather permissible and God will, 50,000 Richmonders will bask in the sunlight of and beautiful day and celebrate their city and each other and for a brief moment we will be "One City, Our City", no matter where we come from.

Here is a photo essay of how it looked as of today.

Jeb Stuart

The classic hero that was lucky enough to die young and dashing and forever be remembered that way.

Robert E Lee

The man who could have changed history by serving his country instead of his state. Bound by honor his choice resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands. Respected worldwide as one of the greatest military tacticians while at the same time committing perhaps the worst blunder of the Civil War, Pickett's charge up Cemetery Ridge.

Stonewall Jackson

Religious fanatic and brilliant soldier/teacher out of VMI. He made his reputation as a fearless daring commander who would ask the impossible from his troops who would then accomplish it, often at the cost of their own lives.

Maury - Pathfinder Of the Seas.

Who knows anything about Maury except the fact he goes by a single name and has the coolest statue on the Boulevard. forever lost in frozen concentration.
keeping the world above his head in order and in place.
From Avenue of Heroes and Ghosts

Jefferson Davis - A Mississippi import, President of the Confederacy and symbol of a lost cause. He was unrepentant of the cause he so poorly led. I have little to say about him and no photo I'm willing to share.

Finally Arthur Ashe

I remember him as the hero of the U.S. Open. A man who like Barack Obama, made us feel better about ourselves, simply by being a black man who succeeded. Well he did overcome, in spite of difficult, odds and that makes him a hero to me. He is also remembered for his tragic death by AIDS contracted during a blood transfusion. Remembered more for his character and manner with which he faced his fate, a dedicated humanitarian and benefactor towards his fellow man.

From Avenue of Heroes and Ghosts

The Avenue - still uncomplete and waiting for new and old heroes. The challenge will be to select those whom we can all embrace. There are plenty out there who deserve respect and recognition. It shouldn't be hard to find one and choose a suitable monument. There are worse ways to spend our time.

From Avenue of Heroes and Ghosts

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Scott said...

"I remember the gross reporting on the Arthur Ashe statue."

I purposely stayed away from the circus that day, but watching the event on TV, I was not grossed out. I was a bit proud that Richmond was dealing with its race issues in a very big way. As I commented on Sarvay's blog, some visitors see Richmond as one of the most racist places on earth. There's good reason for that assessment. However, I also tell them and others that in some ways Richmond is ahead of the game in the weird way that it confronts race issues, while other cities continue to forget or gloss over their problems. I am a bit more ambivalent about Monument Avenue and its history (and expense), and my friends and I do sometimes make fun of the 'whack-a-mole statue', but we are certainly not making fun of Ashe, and deep down, we appreciate the statue's meaning. Speaking of which, what do you think is Ashe's legacy? I think he would be ashamed of a City that seems to be more willing to lavish time and attention on the stupid baseball stadium debate vs. concentrating on getting Richmond's schools legal and refurbished.

Paul Hammond said...

I think Ashe, being the gentleman that he was, would have focused on his main cause, AIDS, and not gotten involved in this divisive free frall. But he's dead now and no one can speak for him.

FanGuy said...

I love Monument Avenue, and Ashe was a great man and great tennis player deserving of being honored in this town. But the statue of him is, IMO, awful. He looks like an old man swatting away at some "pesky" kids who are reaching up for help. We could have done better.

Paul Hammond said...

We can always do better and tastes differ, but we can agree on the spirit and intention of this tribute.

Andy IT said...

Wow, I had no idea that Lee was the main factor in the start of war. I was under the impression that the US invasion of Virginia had a little more to do with those tens of thousands (600,000) of deaths.

Other than your opinions on the history of the southern states, it's nice to see someone appreciating Monument Avenue. It's a treasure that I fear will someday be lost by those more ignorant and self serving than the men who are portrayed there.

The only problem I've ever had with the Arthur Ashe statue is that it's so awkwardly placed and that the controversy most certainly negated the memories of his accomplishments in the minds of many Richmonders. I don't think that he would have wanted the type of attention that those behind his statue created. Unfortunately, it's that self serving attitude that cancels out a lot of good intentions.

Paul Hammond said...

"Wow, I had no idea that Lee was the main factor in the start of war."

I don't believe I said that. The unstated point was that Lee was offered command of Union armies and his choice changed the course of history.

The tens (hundreds) of thousands of deaths is a responsibility shared by many, as was the peculiar institution of slavery.

Shennen Dean said...

I don't know if having statues of confederates, often viewed as villains by those who abhor slavery, is doing anything good for the community. True heroes act selflessly or at least with more concern for the greater good than for the self. What were the confederates motivated by?

Paul Hammond said...

There were two intentions to this post.

1. To point out the history and majesty of our most famous avenue.

2. To provoke conversation about where we go from here? See related posts

Who is Richmond's Next Hero?
Heroes for the Avenue

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