The Napoleon, Defiance, and Western railroad has a reputation for having the worst track in the world. The road, part of the old Wabash mainline, had maintenance deferred for over 50 years, from the merger of the Wabash into Norfolk & Western to it operation as a shortline railroad. Even the first few shortline operators did not have the resources to do much maintenance as this video shows.
Earlier this week I was a video of ongoing maintenance in the yard at Defiance.
Just looking at the quality of the ballast tells you one thing about the current owners and operators. They believe the railroad has a future. They are willing to invest time and money into that future.
This morning yet another video of a statue being torn down in the name of building a better future greeted me. This video contained a grim bit of human comedy as the statue came down on one of the people toppling it, causing serious head trauma. He is, as of this writing, in a medical coma. The individual hit by the statue was willing to invest not just time and energy, but his own life into bringing that statue down.
The men who erected that statue gave time and money into it. I don’t know of any injuries in erecting it. I doubt there were any. Those men either had friends or ancestors who invested in the cause that statue celebrated, the army of the Confederate States of America. In the sense that they desired to celebrate the past, they shared something in common with the individuals who brought the statue down. Both the erectors and destroyers of the statue wanted to make a statement about the past.
In another way, probably an unconscious way, the erectors of the statue shared something in common with the owners of the ND&W which those tearing down the statue did not. The erectors and the restorers have a belief in the future. Even if there is no intent to make a statement about the future, by their actions the men who build the statue and the railroaders who are restoring the old Wabash rail lines are investing their time and treasure into passing something into the future. The destroyers of the statue, while claiming to be all about the future, are not yet passing anything into the future. At best they can claim they are preventing something malodorous from continuing into the future.
This conviction, that they alone can see the statue for what it is, renders them incapable of having faith in the future. It renders them incapable of conceiving that they can construct positive things to send into the future that will exceed any negative things that arrive in that same future. They believe the past must send nothing bad to prevent the future from doing bad.
I would say prioritizing the sending of a historical bad into the future shows a lack of faith in the future. If we let future generations know of something bad they might emulate it. They have some justification in that fear in so far as perhaps the erectors sent that statue into the future in hopes of at least some characteristics of the Confederate Army would be emulated in the future. However, the destroyers, in destroying that statue without erecting their own first, show they fear the future will emulate the bad more readily than it would emulate the good. They also display a lack of faith in convincing the future the statue represents something bad. They seem to think its mere existence suffices to render what it represents good to those who came before and after them.
I would not say they cannot create, although I will say they have less faith in their ability to create than the artists and patrons who created the statues they set out to destroy. If they consider the destruction of these statues as more important than any statue they might create to counter the first they are granting the first greater power. It is as though they believe these relics of the past are not just statues, but talismans of evil with the power to hypnotize others. They are immune to this hypnosis, but also lack faith in their ability to bestow that same immunity on others.
The grand irony is the erectors of those statues, in having faith in the future, believed in the world the destroyers inhabit. As odd as it might sound some erectors might agree with the destroyers in the sense that when they raised the statutes, they believed a future age would take them down because of the people they represented. Some, not all, but some, Confederate statues were erected in the period after the war as part of reconciliation. I have no direct evidence, but I am willing to admit the possibility that some who erected them believed they would come down in a few generations when everyone understood the Confederate cause was wrong.
Assuming such erectors existed, I suspect they would see the current removal as failing short of their future where the wrongness was universally understood. Such a future would not see such controversy or anger in the removal, or such spectacle. It would, I suspect, take the form of an embarrassed looking away while they were quietly carted to the melting pot or breaking yard.
Regardless of the possibility of fulfilling a potential dream of some erectors, that something built as part of reconciliation in the immediate aftermath of the war with the intent on their eventual destruction, I cannot see the current destructors as a positive. They are, for now, just destroyers. We know destruction is easier than creation. The modern iconoclasts are reckless in their destruction, unable to even ensure the safety of their fellows. If they cannot even manage the meager work of destruction competently, I have no faith they will do well at creation.
So, for all the flash and celebration the destroyers have today on CNN and the BBC, the future does not belong to them, not yet at least. It does, however, belong to the heavy equipment operators in that rail yard video and the people who hired them. Next year they will have sent something into the future that affects the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands, of people in jobs, goods, and a better place to live.
I hope that in a year the modern iconoclasts will have had their fill of destructing the past and turn to building the future instead of just claiming to care about it.