Another day, another statue. This time it is once again the statue of a founder of Connecticut, Capt. John Mason.
The statue’s repositioning was thought to be settled 26 years ago when it was moved to Windsor, Mason’s hometown, from the Mystic section of Groton, scene of the massacre of the Pequot tribe in 1637 during a war Mason led for the English colonists and their Indian allies.
Amid the recent social justice clamor, some Windsor residents have convinced the Town Council that the statue should depart the town green, where it presents Mason as a hero, and be placed somewhere else as a sort of educational exhibit, maybe at the town’s historical society. At least there the statue would be at less risk of the usual vandalism by the perpetrators of social justice.
The Mystic massacre is probably the worst thing ever to have happened in Connecticut. It doesn’t seem to have been planned as it turned out, but it was genocide all the same, with hundreds of noncombatants killed when the Pequot fort was set afire and people who ran out were not allowed to surrender.
Even so, the Pequots invited their own demise with years of predations against the English and other tribes. Indeed, the tribes oppressed by the Pequots sent emissaries to Massachusetts to invite the English to settle among them as allies against their oppressors.
Back then, there was no Geneva Convention, or any laws of war at all. One side would attack the other out of the blue, just for existing, and the instigators were usually the Indians, defending their territory against the settlers. Ironically, the people today most sympathetic to the Indians of old, people on the political left, are also advocates of open borders, which the Indians went to war to prevent.
Mason’s statue was erected by state government in Mystic in 1889 to mark the European culture’s destruction of the native culture — erected on the very spot where the Pequots were exterminated. Thus Connecticut then had no more shame about the massacre than Mason himself did 250 years earlier. Mason’s memoir of the war exalted the extermination as God’s work against the “heathens,” though of course his Indian allies, the Mohegans and Narragansetts, were no less “heathens” than the Pequots were.
So should Mason still be celebrated today? Without him the war against the Pequots might not have been won and Connecticut and even the United States might not have come to be. Or should the massacre disqualify him?
One might as well ask whether Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Winston Churchill should still be celebrated, since, while the monstrous tyrannies of World War II might not have been defeated without them, they authorized the mass slaughter of enemy civilians in the bombings of Hamburg, Dresden, Berlin, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and other cities.
The people who were terrorized by the Pequots and for whom the Pequots were destroyed did not mourn them, any more than the people for whom millions of German and Japanese civilians were destroyed mourned them. For some wars inevitably become more or less genocidal, and shame becomes easier at a safe distance in time.
Besides, any shame felt today about Mason is a little too exquisite, since it is being expressed by people who express none about things like the war in Afghanistan, now in its 20th year of accomplishing nothing but pointless death.