Penn State removed the statue of its football Coach Joe Paterno for his role in covering up massive crimes of child abuse at the school.
But here we want to give our abuser even greater prominence. Anthony Wayne didn’t just cover up crimes of abuse, he committed them. For that he is hailed as a hero. Wayne came to this settlement named Kekionga with but one goal: to destroy the native population, in the process becoming part of what historian W. Scott Poole calls “genocide of massive proportions against native peoples.”
This caught the eye of Adolf Hitler. John Toland, in his biography “Adolf Hitler,” writes, “Hitler’s concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United States history ... He often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America’s extermination — by starvation and uneven combat — of the ‘red savages’ who could not be tamed by captivity.”
This is what we want our city to stand for? The statue of Anthony Wayne in a downtown park should not be moved but removed, and with it the shameful name of this city. Replace the statue with one that honors the memory of all the children who have died from child abuse and then use the rest of the $100,000 needed to move it to help revitalize downtown with the creation of an art center for kids that would feature workshops, exhibits, games, artistic performances and local artists volunteering their time and talents to conduct workshops, with an emphasis on teaching empathy as a way of combating child abuse and the violence that permeates American society, the latest example the mass murder of 20 children and eight adults in Newtown, Conn.
Hitler’s genocide mercifully ended, but Wayne’s disgraceful legacy of “might makes right” continues to this day with torture, the highest child abuse rate of any industrialized country, economic inequality, unjust laws against Americans that would make Hitler proud, unlawful invasions of other countries and the legal killing of anyone for any reason, including Americans. America wallows in violence, embraces it and rewards it.
A local committee carries on Wayne’s legacy by wanting to spend $390,000 on the defense industry — aka war industry — to create a “center of excellence.” In the words of Paul Craig Roberts, former assistant secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan, “Iran finds itself as just another 17th or 18th century American Indian tribe to be deprived of its rights and to be exterminated by the forces of evil that dominate Washington, D.C.”
I realize few Americans think of their country as evil, which is why violence permeates our culture and why we continue to celebrate men like Anthony Wayne. We believe our enemy to be savages, communists and terrorists and ourselves to be noble, the protectors of civilization.
In “Fire in the Lake,” Frances Fitzgerald explores why we believe ourselves to be superior: “To the American settlers the defeat of the Indians had seemed not just a nationalist victory, but an achievement made in the name of humanity — the triumph of light over darkness, of good over evil and of civilization over brutish nature.”
When members of the Miami tribe, victims of Wayne’s crusade, were removed from their homeland by force by soldiers with the American flag stitched on their uniform, they cried and wailed, as anyone would, and clutched the earth as they were, according to an eyewitness, “hunted down like wild animals and herded onto canal boats like cattle” to foreign lands out west, passing through the City of Churches on their way.
This is “civilization over brutish nature”? The Miami nation morphed into Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, poor Americans. At this time of national conversations on gun control and violence in America, changing the name from one celebrating violence and abuse to one celebrating peace and compassion could send a powerful message to the rest of the country, a theme of the local version last month at Parkview Field of “One Billion Rising” featuring people dancing from all over the world to combat abuse against women. The dance celebrated all humanity regardless of country, age, skin color or status.
Until Americans can see themselves as part of a common humanity — no better, no worse than other humans — we will not as a people aspire to the better part of our nature and violence will continue to stain our national character.