Op-Ed: A Strange Old Statue in Alabama That Can Teach Us a Huge Lesson About History


I spent a year of my childhood in Enterprise, Alabama, in the early 1980s when my father, who was in the Army, was stationed at nearby Fort Rucker.

Although it was long ago, I have fond memories of my brief time living in the small, southern town. There were quiet neighborhoods, bucolic farms, a nice school, pecan groves and a great open-pit barbecue restaurant.

And in the center of town was an enormous monument of a bug.

The Boll Weevil Monument in downtown Enterprise features a woman in a flowing robe holding a large insect above her head. It was erected in 1919, four years after the boll weevil invaded the area and decimated the cotton crop.

I remember passing the monument during trips to town, wondering why anyone would go to such lengths to honor an insect that nearly destroyed the main economic driver of Enterprise – cotton.

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Because of the monument, I wanted to learn more.

It turns out that even though the boll weevil wreaked havoc on the cotton industry throughout southern Alabama, the event forced farmers to consider a different crop if they were to survive. They turned to peanuts, and it was a good move.

More than 100 years after the monument was put up, Alabama is one of the top peanut-producing states.

And it’s all because of the boll weevil.

Does the removal of statues cure racism?

Even though the insect is an agricultural pest that caused significant hardship to Alabama’s cotton farmers a century ago, there is a lesson to be learned.

The boll weevil invasion is a symbol of man’s ability to adjust and persevere through adversity, and the monument in downtown Enterprise serves as a constant reminder of that.

A similar case can be made for many monuments and statues that are being recklessly torn down and destroyed across the country. While some of them, such as those that depict Confederate leaders, do reflect on a dark time in our nation’s history, they also don’t glorify the struggles and tragedies that occurred during that era. Instead, those monuments and statues are there to remind us of what happened decades or centuries ago, and we need to learn from it.

That’s why I have a problem when local governments or groups of vandals and rioters tear down statues in the name of “social justice.”

Such acts don’t cure racism — the out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach doesn’t solve anything.

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Actually, what is happening when a statue is removed is that history is being censored. Those behind the acts are dictating what we should see and what we should remember.

Worse yet, they truly hope we forget about certain periods of our nation’s history, and that’s dangerous. Obviously there are aspects of this country’s history that should never be repeated, but the best way to ensure that is to never forget about those instances.

As statues continue to be toppled across the country – either by acts of vandalism or on orders from local governments – the craze actually has gone beyond any sort of attempt at a message.

In some cases, it’s pure destruction and nothing more.

Take for instance the statue of a bull elk in Portland, Oregon, that was recently vandalized by rioters and ultimately taken down. The 120-year-old statue was erected in 1900 and was a gift to the city from former mayor David P. Thompson.

Thompson also was the first president of the Oregon Humane Society in 1880, and he requested that the statue be placed in an area that used to be frequented by elk – as a way to pay homage to the species.

To prove how nonsensical the desecration of the elk stature truly is, consider all of the elements leading up to the incident.

You have a crowd of rioters who were protesting racism and decided to vandalize a statue honoring a majestic wild species that was commissioned by the first president of an animal welfare organization.

What’s the message there? If anything, considering the animal welfare link, the leftist protesters actually are attacking a pillar of their foundation.

The anti-statue movement has gone off the rails, and there is no message behind it.

There never was.

Think about it: In those towns and cities where Confederate statues have been toppled, has racism vanished? Has equality suddenly improved? Has anything improved?

It’s simply about vandalism and destruction for the thrill of it, similar to a bunch of teenagers sneaking out at night to soap windows in a neighborhood.

That’s the intent.

When we see monuments or statues that represent a darker time in history, we are inclined to remember and learn from the period they reflect. Today, those pieces don’t glorify the mistakes and pain of the past or those responsible, but rather they keep us aware of the bad things that can happen in this world.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a monument of a bug or a statue of a Confederate general — they all represent occurrences that, as long as they aren’t forgotten, they likely won’t be repeated.

And that’s a lesson that shouldn’t be toppled.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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Tom Venesky is an award-winning freelance writer based in Pennsylvania. He has 20 years of experience as a reporter and columnist for daily newspapers, and his work has appeared in more than 50 publications nationwide.
Tom Venesky is an award-winning freelance writer based in Pennsylvania. He has 20 years of experience as a reporter and columnist for daily newspapers, and his work has appeared in more than 50 publications nationwide.