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That Pro-Confederate Statue of “The Simpsons.”

by Buck Hardcastle 2 years ago in pop culture
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“Lisa the Iconoclast” clearly advocates for keeping statues of bloodthirsty, treasonous men

Springfield town founder Jebediah Springfield


In the season 7 of The Simpsons, episode Lisa the Iconoclast, Lisa goes to the Springfield Historical Society--advertised as “Where the Dead Come Alive. (metaphorically)”-- to do research on town founder Jebediah Springfield. There she accidentally discovers that Hans had a secret double life. Before founding the town of Springfield he was a pirate known as Hans Sprungfeld who once tried to murder George Washington. The museum curator initially tries to cover up Lisa’s findings (this seems like a bad career move--a discovery like this would presumably thrill most historians) but eventually realizes people must know the truth. He and Lisa rush to Springfield’s bicentennial’s celebration to tell everyone, but at the last second Lisa decides to keep Jebediah/Hans’ secret. The reason why is simply because Jebediah’s slogan “A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.” is just so darn inspirational.

This episode created two words that are now in the dictionary, embiggens & cromulent.

Lisa’s reasoning meshes pretty well with people in the real world who claim that taking down Confederate statues would be “destroying history.” However, statues are not neutral tokens from history--they make statements about who deserves honor. At least most of the people from the fictional town of Springfield have no way of knowing that their town founder was bloodthirsty (Lisa’s description) or treasonous (trying to kill a president is about as treasonous as it gets).

The real life residents of Springfield, MO have no such excuses. They are home to a statue of Sterling Price, a slave owner and Confederate general that led troops to attack and kill American citizens. These deeds aren’t secret--indeed they are the reason he got a statue to begin with. It was erected to let black citizens know who deserved honor--someone who was willing to kill to maintain white supremacy. The statue has the nerve to say “They fought for the right of self government.” Nearer to the truth would be “They fought for the boon of white government.”

An image of Price from Springfield News-Leader

In the episode Lisa gets negative reactions when she tries to tell people the truth. When she turns in her report, “Jebediah Simpson: Superfaud” she earns an F and her teacher comments “This is nothing but dead white male bashing from a P.C. thug. It’s women like you who keep the rest of us from landing a good husband.” The accusation is absurd, but it is subdued compared to the way some real life people behave at the suggestion that the historical figure they venerate isn’t a hero. Howls of outrage and even death threats are par for the course. It can perhaps be read as another “Simpson’s predicts the future moment when the Mayor has a sniper trained on Lisa in case she says too much about Jebediah. Part of the reason for these reactions is that people are terrible at taking in information that doesn’t conform to information they already know--this is known as the backfire effect. Part of it is also that some people still agree with the reasons that these statues were put up--to honor white supremacy.

If the fictional Springfield residents ever discover the truth about Jebediah, I hope they take his statue down. There are plenty of other notable Springfield residents they can honor if they really want a statue--I think Duffman would be an improvement. We already know the truth about men like Sterling Price. He fought for the cause of state’s rights, that is state’s rights to own slaves. He was never a hero. History won’t be erased by removing his statue, our understanding of history will be improved.

You can sign the petition to remove Sterling Price’s statue here.

pop culture

About the author

Buck Hardcastle

Served in the Peace Corps in Ukraine, 2005-07.

Viscount of Hyrkania and private cartographer to the house of Beifong.

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