With all the horrors of the world today, it’s invigorating to read about positive developments. Sometimes, a positive development is the result of creatively turning a negative situation into something beneficial. That’s what’s happening in Virginia, where a divisive statue that has provoked ugly racism is being transformed into a new object aimed at inspiring inclusivity and dignity.
For almost a century, a massive, three-ton bronze statue of Robert E. Lee stood in a park in Charlottesville until 2021. Thanks to an initiative called Swords Into Plowshares, not only has the statue been removed, but it is now in the process of being melted down into 24- and 79-pound ingots. The infamous former Confederate monument that prompted the deadly Unite the Right rally in 2017 will await its next incarnation as a symbol of love, rather than hate, that will be displayed in Charlottesville.
Swords Into Plowshares, which is a reference to a verse in Isaiah (“They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks”), has now opened the door to soliciting artist proposals for a jury that will announce a finalist in 2024, exactly 100 years after the original statue’s dedication, according to a report from C-VILLE Weekly. This literal and symbolic meltdown of hate is “already shaping the national conversation,” turning “historic trauma into an artistic expression of democratic values and inclusive aspirations,” according to the initiative’s Web site.
In a 1957 sermon, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about love as the antidote for hate. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that,” he said. King then warned that if we don’t break the “chain reaction of evil,” then “we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.” Indeed, only light can do that—and the melting down of the Lee statue in a 2,200-degree fiery furnace is exactly the type of light this nation needs to move forward.