While statues of Confederate traitors are getting defaced or taken down in the United States, similar actions are taking place overseas in the UK, where protesters are going after imperialists and slave traders. But the subject of one statue controversy may come as a surprise to some because it involves the founder of the Boy Scouts: Lord Robert Baden-Powell.
His statue in Poole, England, erected a decade ago, was slated to be removed on Thursday. That move has been temporarily delayed — it’s just boarded up for now — but the bigger story may be how people are finally coming to grips with his actual legacy:
Baden-Powell is widely hailed for setting up the scout movement which boasts 54 million members worldwide and in a 2007 poll, he was voted the 13th most influential person in the United Kingdom in the 20th century. But critics say he held racist views and was a supporter of Adolf Hitler and fascism.
Let’s flesh that out a bit: Baden-Powell once wrote in his diary, “Read Mein Kampf. A wonderful book, with good ideas on education, health, propaganda, organisation etc.” But his biographer insisted he didn’t approve of all the Nazi stuff… which is kind of like admiring Hitler for his oratory skills. Can you really separate those things? And even if you could, why bother?!
In war, Baden-Powell was accused of starving Africans and killing one chief:
Baden-Powell was later accused of executing an African chief in 1897 who had been promised his safety in return for surrendering.
[Biographer Tim] Jeal said: “This is probably the most damaging charge made against Baden-Powell.
“White settlers were being murdered in a remote part of Matabeleland. Baden-Powell had orders to capture the chief, Uwini, thought to be responsible and suppress his rebellion.
“Because the chief was wounded during capture and Baden-Powell doubted he would survive a long journey to the Cape to face a civil court, he court-martialled him on the spot.
“The verdict was death, so he was shot. Baden-Powell had exceeded his orders.”
There’s nothing to admire about this guy. So, sure, bring the statue down. There are better role models than the deeply disturbing guy whose greatest claim to fame was an organization that came to be known for abuse and bigotry.
For now, the Poole council hasn’t decided what to do with the statue. But even storing it somewhere where no one will see it seems far too kind to his legacy.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)