Tag Archives: William R. Cupach

An Interesting and Thoughtful Post by Brian H. Spitzberg

I have never seen this many reactions to a post, as I we had on the issue on Racism, Statutes, and Monuments.

One of the best posts that I read recently was by Brian H. Spitzberg.  I have known him for more that 40 years, when we were debaters at UT Arlington.  He is Senate Distinguished Professor in the School of Communication at San Diego State University. His primary areas of research involve interpersonal communication skills, jealousy, conflict, coercion, violence, and stalking.  This is one of his books:

The Dark Side of Relationship Pursuit: From Attraction to Obsession and Stalking (2nd Edition) by Brian H. Spitzberg and William R. Cupach (Routledge; 2 edition, 2014)

He writes:

Statues are not referents. But as symbols, they are literally raised to a stature of prominence for collective public adulation, when they do not represent the collective public. And worse, they represent (symbolize) dominance over substantial portions of that collective population. The symbol is not the thing it represents, but equivalent with this axiom of communication theory is that meaning is in people, not in the symbol itself. If large segments of the population’s values, indeed, existence, are no longer represented by those statues, publicly funded statements of honorific aspiration and honor, then those people are going to seek to effect change in a societal system long demonstrated as racist in its representation of their civic presence. Your example of Hitler is instructive. Can you point to a public statue of Hitler anywhere in the world? If erected, would you be surprised, much less object, to it being torn down? Hitler wanted to eliminate a race. Many of the persons represented by these statues wanted to enslave a race. You are on the wrong side of history on this one, as are the statues. I personally tend to object to publicly funded statues of historical persons in general, as they are often flawed in ways that send very mixed messages. It bothers me, for example, that MLK engaged in plagiarism in his dissertation, a behavior I fail students for as unethical behavior. I respect Einstein immensely, but he was an adulterer and a rather bad family member. In general, we should honor values and ideals rather than people. But there are much better personages and much worse, and it is time that many of our worse sources of public adulation undergo a reevaluation. And as with so many things in public life, had the violence not initiated the downfall of these statues, the legislative process of such downfall that is now being seriously debated across the country, probably would not have occurred. I am not a fan of civil disobedience in general, but historically speaking it has often been the primary engine of much of the social justice reforms that have happened in our country.