I LIKE BILL

I like Bill. Bill McKinley, that is, the guy who’s been hanging out in the Arcata Plaza since 1906. People who want him removed try to associate him with various crimes to which he is not connected. He should be removed, they tell us, because in the 1860s indigenous people were being sold in the Arcata Plaza. But in the 1860s young Bill was not selling slaves in Arcata. He was thousands of miles away, fighting to free slaves in the south. A staunch abolitionist, Bill joined the war as a private at the age of eighteen and ended it a major.

George Zehndner, they go on to tell us, the man who paid for the statue actually indentured a seven-year-old native girl himself in 1860. I know nothing about George Zehndner, but I have taken a good look at the statue pedestal and I can confirm that the statue is of our man Bill, not George Zehndner.

Others argue that Bill does not belong in the Plaza because he had nothing to do with Humboldt County. I would point out that Alexander von Humboldt had nothing to do with Humboldt County either, but we have made him our own. Like von Humboldt, Bill has become one of us. At this year’s Oyster Festival, I spotted him cleverly disguised as Poseidon, god of the sea, complete with a flowing beard and trident. A couple of weeks later at the Fairies Festival he carried a magic wand in his right hand. As Bill McKinley did in real life, his statue is always willing to help out. Our Bill has become a part of Arcata, as natural to the Plaza as the two beautiful—and not-at-all native—palm trees that tower so majestically behind him. I’m voting yes on Measure M.

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Posted in Whimsy | | 7 Comments

7 Responses to I LIKE BILL

  1. Gordon Inkeles says:

    Bravo! Great essay!

  2. Lisa Morehouse says:

    Doug,
    What a greatly thought out and and well written commentary. Thank you.
    I, too, am voting Yes on Measure M.

    Lisa Morehouse

  3. Dylan Collins says:

    Gordon Inkeles I like the local tribes who have asked it to be removed after they have been continually ignored in this community. I like moving toward a community that is welcoming and inclusive to all its members and not just old white guys. I like actual history that doesnt sensationalize our presidents into great people when they’re not. I like having a resprestation of someone who has actually done something positive for our community to stand in the center of it for kids and young people to look up to. I dont like Bill and we can remove him with an extremely minimal cost which was already voted on at the city hall meeting. I like arcata moving out of the mindset of the 1900’s. I like voting no on M. Thanks for the article.

  4. Michael Welch says:

    Doug really hasn’t refuted the biggest of reasons the statue should go. You’ve just touched on some minor points. For more info see: http://www.historicjusticealliance.org/

  5. Art Bettini says:

    Your comments are right on. Thanks so much for being proactive. No one is perfect
    and Bill was not. Even though he risked his life in the Civil War and was supportive of the newly freed slaves through his time as Governor of Ohio. From his faults we can learn. My hope is that the measure passes if only it reminds our elected official they should not be influenced by large numbers of raucous people.

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