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Melt It Down

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It is highly unfortunate that the latest attempt to reckon with the nation’s racist past disappeared about six months. Biden was elected and I guess racism is over or something…….But at least a lot of horrible statues were taken down. The giant statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond could not have deserved a better fate:

Lawsuits to stop the project failed, and last weekend organizers moved forward, with great secrecy, to disassemble and melt down the Lee monument.

The work is being done at an out-of-state foundry. NPR agreed not to reveal its location or the identity of the workers because they fear repercussions.

They use a torch to score the head of the statue, in the pattern of a death mask. Lee’s face falls to floor with a loud clank.

The symbolism is poignant for Andrea Douglas, executive director of the Jefferson School African American Cultural Center in Charlottesville, which is leading the project.

“The act of myth-making that has occurred around Robert E. Lee, removing his face is emblematic of the kind of removal of that kind of myth,” Douglas says.

The project is called Swords into Plowshares, taken from a Bible verse in the book of Isaiah.

A furnace is ignited and heats to more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit in a side yard of the foundry. Workers feed pieces of the verdigris statue, including General Lee’s saber, into a large vessel inside called a crucible.

“We are turning swords into something else,” says Douglas. “That saber is the object of violence and it was the object of power, the object of conquest. I think that is an important symbol to really sort of dig into”

Just after nightfall, foundry workers remove the crucible which glows a bright red-orange, and pour the steaming molten bronze into molds.

Just pump this into my veins.

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