CHRIS POWELL: At state Capitol, old statue is offensive but not mayhem

Published on Wednesday, 16 June 2021 20:21

While bullets flew and people fell all around Hartford, some within sight of the state Capitol dome, the General Assembly deliberated its state budget legislation and then, as part of the budget, voted to remove from the Capitol's façade the statue of Maj. John Mason, without whom Connecticut and the rest of New England might not have survived and developed as an English colony.

The idea is to relocate the statue to the grounds of the Old State House a few blocks away and attach a plaque that will note, among other things, Mason's involvement in the battle that ended in the massacre of most of the Pequot tribe in Mystic in 1637.

Since many noncombatants were killed, that massacre is probably the worst thing ever to have happened in Connecticut. But relations between the English and some Indian tribes already had become genocidal on both sides. Indeed, the English in the Boston area were invited to settle in Connecticut by tribes looking for allies against the Pequots, who were oppressing them and whose very name meant "destroyers." To a great extent the Pequots brought destruction on themselves.

But political correctness wants to magnify the offenses of the prevailing culture's antecedents, taking them out of the context of their time. So Mason's statue must be relocated, just as another statue of him is to be relocated from the town green to the historical society in Windsor, the town he helped found.

There might be a fair discussion here, but the affectation of morality about statues at the Capitol when the adjacent city and Connecticut's other two major cities, New Haven and Bridgeport, are exploding in mayhem is too exquisite. The legislature's recent session seems not even once to have taken note of this mayhem. While the legislature rushed toward its midnight adjournment last Wednesday two people were murdered in separate incidents in Hartford, one of them a beloved grandmother killed by bullets tearing through the walls of her apartment as she was making dinner inside.

To distract from the city's social disintegration, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin blamed the latest atrocity on the "assault weapon" from which the fatal shots were fired. But the city's social disintegration is not so easily concealed. Lately it also has included raucous and unauthorized street parties disrupting the city's south side and overwhelming the police, as well as the Police Department's difficulty in keeping up with the turnover caused by the demoralization of its officers.

The shots also keep flying and people keep falling in New Haven and Bridgeport, which nevertheless are deliberating how to replace their own recently removed statues of Columbus.

Meanwhile Democratic leaders at the Capitol are calling the new state budget "transformational." Relocating a statue while ignoring the mayhem, the budget might better be called oblivious.

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LAMONT'S EMPTY POSE: On balance the recent legislative session seems to have gone well for Governor Lamont, but advocates of freedom of information and the rights of crime victims may not be favorably impressed by his handling of the legislation that will erase thousands of criminal records, including some serious felonies.

The governor signed the bill but then sent a letter to the legislature urging it to amend the new law to prevent some of those felonies from being erased. Of course the normal procedure for a governor who has objections to legislation is to negotiate them before a bill is passed or to veto the bill and explain his objections, thereby preserving his leverage.

With other issues Lamont has not hesitated to suggest he would use his veto. His expressing his objections to the conviction erasure bill after he signed it into law rather than before is not likely to persuade legislators to make changes, nor provide much consolation to those who rights are erased along with the convictions.

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LET THE PUBLIC BACK IN: Just as the governor admits he has enjoyed ruling by emergency decree for 15 months during the virus epidemic, most members of the General Assembly seem to have enjoyed excluding the public from the legislative halls during their recent session.

With the epidemic fading fast, the Capitol should be reopened to the public. If concern continues, the unvaccinated can be asked to wear masks.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Column on Wednesday, 16 June 2021 20:21. Updated: Wednesday, 16 June 2021 20:23.