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Breakup Letter from President McKinley's Statue


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Dear Arcata,

I didn't want to do this by letter but I know if I try to get this all out in person, I'll freeze up. We've had a good run together — a century! — and I just think it's time to move on. For a while now I've felt — what's the word? Stuck.

Getting shot in the gut makes a man think. And I've had 112 years up here to mull things over. Anybody who says they have no regrets is nuts. Before you fight me on that, let's remember I had a front row seat when you got tossed from Everett's for clogging up the jukebox with Def Leppard. Yeah. Just be glad nobody cast you in bronze while you were wearing that sleeveless half shirt. Meanwhile I'm over here drowning in a long coat that makes me look like that shrimp James Madison.

Listen, it's not you; it's me. I've changed. Maybe after gazing down at a couple dozen war protests and homeless veterans sleeping rough at my feet I'm feeling a little less hawkish, less reckless about human life. Maybe standing in the middle of Wiyot land and seeing first-hand the murder and misery my policies wrought, I'm not so proud. And yet here I am, frozen with this look of conviction on my face and the Women's Peace Vigil over there judging. Yeah, I know you're over there, ladies. Every goddamn week.

We've had some good times together, Arcata, but it hasn't all been family picnics on the grass. I've been egged, climbed and covered in Silly String, strewn with condoms and dressed up like a purse dog. I've lost count of the number of penises that have been drawn on me. Losing your thumb and standing stock still while people hunt for it like a bronze Easter egg isn't dignified, folks. And I'll tell you something else — the thumb they soldered back on my hand? Not mine. I think I know my own damn thumb.

The rain out here is terrible. And so is the endless parade of dudes with poi sticks. And when some guy on the plaza starts talking about chem trails, maybe you can brush him off but I can't escape. I'm literally welded in place for the whole fucking spiel. For the love of God, let me go.

When I was younger and, you know, alive, I was more ambitious. Now I wish I'd just coasted through my term, cut the ribbon on the presidential library, maybe done a little public speaking. If I hadn't gotten shot, I could have slipped into the mists of history between Roosevelt and Lincoln. I could have gone out like Chester A. Arthur or Millard Fillmore — the ones they skip in school plays. They're not on money and only the hardcore nerds remember them, much less all the bad shit they did. And those two? Both assholes. I mean that on a historical and personal level because between you and me, even in the afterlife they're pretty smug for a couple of guys named Chester and Millard. But have you seen a statue of them? No. So nobody's coming after them for the Chinese Exclusion Act or enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act. Those bastards have it made.

I hear there's a petition going around and a group of concerned citizens out to keep me right where I am. Hey, I'm flattered, but we've both got to move on. Ask yourself — and remember this is me you're talking to — how much do you really care about me, like, for me? I mean, you just didn't seem that into me until you heard I might leave. Do you even like me as a sculpture? I've seen how you look at that giant flaming octopus. Is it possible you're holding on this tightly because deep down you know it's over? We both deserve better than that. I may not be perfect but I deserve to be in a museum or a weird private home or a mini golf course that really wants me, not just a symbol of a past that felt comfortable for you.

Frankly, some of the guys rooting for us to stay together are creeping me out. First that debate team dropout Tucker Carlson on Fox News came out Team McKata, then Karl Rove poked his head out of his haunted mansion to croak out his support. Does it not bother you that a professional racist like Richard Spencer is in our cheering section? I'd punch him myself if I thought this thumb would hold.

Arcata, we've got history and that's not going away. Where we go from here is part of our history, too. You're still a fun, attractive town and there are plenty of other statues out there for who you are now, who'll grow with you. I'll take the blame for our breakup since what I did in life, hey, that's on me. But you've got to take me off this pedestal.


Bronze President McKinley

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill is the arts and features editor at the Journal. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 320, or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill.

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