Compared to the hellish turn events have taken over the past four years, the Great Clown Panic of 2016 is easy to forget. But as I wrote at the time, this bizarre phenomenon – part prank, part media hype, part soccer mom moral panic – was not as alien to America as it appeared. Far from it, it seemed to be symptomatic of a country whose already threadbare psyche was completely unraveling. If you believed in omens, it would be easy to see this as a preamble to something far more menacing in store.
When we tear down statues, it is an attempt to alter the trajectory of history. Not history as just “what has happened,” which we can never change as much as reinterpret. No, this is history as a great unfolding, as something that is taking place and will take place on one route or another depending on what is done in this moment. You can hear it in the reactions of the right. In their barely contained apoplexy, their cries of “you can’t erase history,” they are, however unwittingly, announcing that there is consequence to how that history is experienced in the here and now.