Did you know the 56th Presidential Inauguration for President #BarackObama had the largest attendance of any Presidential Inauguration in U.S. history? It also had the largest attendance of any event in the history of #WashingtonDC!
A photo posted by Trust for the National Mall (@thenationalmall) on
In August of 2015, my wife and I took a long walk around Montréal with a Kodak Funsaver disposable camera. I attempted to take as many photos of monuments as time and a limited supply of film would allow. She tolerated my enthusiasm for commemorative architecture and basked in the francophonic charm of the old city.
Sixteen months later, I shuffle through the photo prints and wonder what Montréal's public art landscape might teach the États-Unis in the aftermath of the 2016 election.
How is it that greatest French-speaking city in Québec has managed to tolerate so many British monuments for so long? In a province that has made more than one attempt to establish it's sovereignty from Canada and the Crown, why do Queen Victoria and her war heroes still loom over the streets? Is it threats from Buckingham Palace? Canadian politeness? Inertia?
I expect that the reason the British monuments remain standing varies on a case-by-case basis, but I honestly don't know. I don't even know any Québecois to ask. (Claude Cormier, if you ever read this, I would love to chat.) So I'll speculate. This is my blog. I may wonder aloud in ignorance if I want:
My hope, is that their continued existence points to Montréalers' empathy for the diverse histories of their neighbors. The city's public art scene is an eclectic one. The first of the above photos commemorates a very large tree - in situ. JFK and Cardinals and British Admirals and the Olympics all get a plinth and a plaque. Regardless of their present-day popularity, everybody gets a statue!
As anti-Confederate grafftti spread across memorials in the US this year, I wondered about it's impact on the coming election. It is an unsettling thing to see your heroes maligned. It might be disturbing enough to make voting for a crazy person who "gets you" seem rational. I worried that an attack on Southern identity through it's symbols would contribute to white paranoia on November 8th. I can't say if it did, but Breitbart continues to feature stories on the graffiti, so I suspect as much.
Post-election, the American Left's power to topple monuments has receded. Liberals need a reboot. They should reconsider their approach to conservative public art as a part of this process. Less than 40 miles north of the border, progressive Montreal seems to tolerate its outdated statues. Perhaps this makes it both a more neighborly and more stable place.
Matt Sickle is a landscape designer living in Maryland, near Washington, D.C.