With the erection of barricades once again heralding the coming demise of what is now the last major Confederate monument left standing in New Orleans, Lee Circle is soon to assume a new identity.
Back in Mach of this year I penned a column speculating possible replacement figures to take General Robert E. Lee spot atop the 90 foot Tennessee marble column.
I listed a parade of local notables and international leaders who had some connection, even if tangential, to the Crescent City yet none seemed to really fill the southern general’s boots.
In late April Mayor Landrieu announced his vision that Lee Circle would be rebranded Tricentennial Circle, in honor of the city’s upcoming 300th birthday.
Even for a city with a major connector road named Tchoupitoulas, that awkward name and its seven syllables would be a stretch for denizens who casually butcher our French name streets.
On the eve of Lee’s plucking from his pedestal, the city sent forth word that Lee would be replaced with a water feature.
I have no idea what that’d entail beyond how Camp Street vagrants have utilized Lee Circle as their own “water” feature.
Also, with the race to succeed Landrieu already taking shape, why should the outgoing mayor arbitrarily determine what replaces these century old memorials within a period of less than a year.
Unlike the the heavy handed, secretive, and unilateral action by the mayor to remove four historic monuments, the public should have a role in shaping the future of the new monuments.
Just because the New Orleans City Council surrendered all authority to the mayor doesn’t mean he should get a free hand.
If the people can name the city’s Mississippi River bridges the Crescent City Connection why not allow them to come up with the replacement name and design for the iconic roundabout?
Actually, in recognition of the erasure of a critical yet uncomfortable chapter of New Orleans history, the shaft should remain unoccupied and the traffic circle should be renamed George Orwell Circus.
Orwell was the British literary visionary who penned two of the most important books of the 20th century, Animal Farm and 1984, tomes that explained the means and stuff of tyrannies are made.
In 1984 the world was introduced to the Memory Hole, the place where materials that don’t conform to the regime line are sent to be erased from existence.
This famous quote from that book is exceptionally appropriate to Landrieu’s bowdlerization campaign…
“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”
Soviet dictator Josef Stalin was a pro at this, doctoring photographs long before there was a Photoshop program and rewriting history books to make the heroes of the past the villains of the present.
Of course circus has a double meaning.
One of the definitions of circus is a rounded open area of a city where streets converge, like London’s Piccadilly Circus (which has no big top).
That said, it’d also be a reference to this entire memorial fiasco, from the city’s masked snipers to the imposition of the statist authority to the protesters.
The best part is that the only expense would be changing the street signs.
The empty column needs no replacement figure or bust of Orwell- the tribute to him would BE the vacant spot.
Furthermore a mystery donor angel wouldn’t be needed or foundation recruited to launder money to evade public records laws- I’ll put up the $300 from my pocket so future generations can see the true meaning of Orwellian.
The ruined circle should be left as is, scarred turf, broken concrete and all, for maximum effect.
George Orwell Circus would be a non-monument for the ages!
At least until Big Brother and the Inner Party decide that a fresh rewrite of history is in order.
All monuments being equal, though some being more equal than others.