Why Do We Build Statues?

By | December 27, 2023

[December 27, 2023]  A statue is not so much about the past as about our future.  That is the best way to understand why we build statues.  This simple observation does not mean statues are not about our past.  But it does mean that we build statues to bargain with the future, to help bring about a better future.  Building statues is a fundamental human activity.  We recognize that we have a future and can bend it to something better, the “moral good.”

A few days ago, I answered this question, in part, by saying that a statue says to anyone who sees it, “You will be judged by what I am.”   That is truly scary.

“And those who are ambivalent to that judgment, uncommitted, and don’t care about what it [a statue] represents will be judged the harshest.  And that is Hell if you fail that judgment.” from Why We Built a WWII Statue

It means that humans can look into the future, see it for what it can be, and not accept it as fate in an uncontrollable universe.  The future is about people and people who know who we are; they know our reputation, behavior, past actions, and ideals.  And we can think of the future as a place of judgment about our moral actions.

Dr. Jordan Peterson associates this with the idea of sacrifice.  He tells how this emerges in the story of Cain and Able.  Both men sacrifice to God to stay on His good side.  A sacrifice means giving up something of value in the present to improve the future.  He says that some sacrifices are better than others.  And the better sacrifice is no different from what we call discipline.

We believe some ideas are of higher value, which is a reasonable way to think.  These ideas help us move forward in our lives.  They help us push aside other ways of thinking that are not good for us but that we might nevertheless be in love with and are unwilling to let go.

A statue helps center us morally and physically and demonstrates what we should sacrifice to be better than we are today.  Not unlike our WWII statue that demonstrates the sacrifice of those who fought during that great war, the highest sacrifice any human can make, to put their life on the line in the fight against evil, in this case, embodied in German Nazism, Italian Fascism, and the Imperialism of the Japanese Empire.

If we knowingly go down the negative path, we have failed to make the proper sacrifices.  Those unworthy sacrifices mean we have accepted ideas and actions that are not morally good.  And that is why things will not go well for us.  This message is brutal, and statues are the personification of our failure.  It is no wonder why we revere statues.  “Revere,” yes, I believe that is the right word, something between admire and worship.

This message is why so many are enraged by statues and are busying themselves, tearing them down or defacing them.  These statues remind them of their personal failures or the failures of their ideas.  Strangely, these statues remind them of the true moral ideal, which they cannot accept.  God’s reminder to Cain why his sacrifices were inadequate is why Cain murdered Abel, killing his ideal.  When you kill your ideal, you’re lost.

Why do we build statues?  Humans build statues to link themselves to the moral good of today and the future.

NOTE 1:  My good friend Joe Griffies asked me to write a book on why we build statues.  That is a grand mission, so I’ll take a fast swing at it in the short term with this article.  Your thoughts are welcome.

NOTE 2: I use the term “statues,” which may be misleading.  “Memorial” might be a better term because it includes the statue and the surrounding parts that complement the statue.  I’m currently using statues, but I might change it for a future article.



Please read my books:

  1. “55 Rules for a Good Life,” on Amazon (link here).
  2. “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

31 thoughts on “Why Do We Build Statues?

  1. Ted

    This article is one of the most important that Gen. Satterfield has written. No, the article is not entertaining but proposes the reason so many want to tear down statues. He is saying that when they see the statue, they are measured against the American values they represent and see themselves as utter failures to live up to them. In today’s culture, anything that goes against you is considered violence and therefore you are a moral superior by destroying whatever that may be and a statue in this case. This is promulgated by Joe Biden, a truly evil man.

  2. Mother Picasso

    Well written, Gen. Doug Satterfield and thank you. Others have suggested you write more on this topic, and I agree. Maybe a book is in your future. Now, this issue does extend way beyond statues, but these are unique in that they do not fullfill a function that is obvious, like a house or office. A statue is just there but it also forces us to face the values that we might not want to face, and thus the craziness of leftist Marxist so prelevant in America.

  3. Veronica Stillman

    This article is spot-on. If no one caught it, Gen. Satterfield is saying that statues, when built, are a symbol of moral goodness (although the opposite can be true, but not often). The question we are forced to ask ourselves is, “Are we good enough?” Most of us will be forced to admit we are not good enoujgh.

  4. Eddie Gilliam

    Great job my friend. A memorial bring honor to the person svc and sacrifice. We raise money and allow land to be used for silly things. Why not try harder city and government officials to honor our heroes.

  5. JT Patterson

    Gen. Satterfield sure knows how to get to the heart of the issue and he does so in this high-level article. It explains, at least in part, why liberal leftist radicals want to tear down statues. They do so because they can “see” that their behavior is not moral and surely is destructive. So they must remove that from their eyes and so deny it.

  6. Lou Schmerconish

    Wow, excellent, Gen. Satterfield …. this is the kind of blog posts that I really love. ❤ I’ve been reading your blog now for a long time and continue to find it refreshing, educational, and funny. 😊 But most importantly, I find your blog to stand out far above the rest. Keep doing great works for those who have the desire to make themselves better. ✔

  7. Ron C.

    Gen. Satterfield is getting scary smart with this article and the earlier one on his team building a WW2 memorial. I will keep on a reading.

    1. Jeff Blackwater

      I agree, this article is amazing because it makes us think about something in a NEW way. If Gen. Satterfield is right, then we do see part of our moral selves in statues and we tell ourselves whether we are inadequate or not. That can be scary, especially for those who have no moral foundation. This is why being a good Christian matters a great deal. Thank you, sir, for another great article.

      1. Good Dog

        Right, another article having Gen. Satterfield making us “think.” That is a bit scary for some of us.

  8. Pink Cloud

    The message: the world is far more complicated that we might think on the surface.

  9. Watson Bell

    Gen. Satterfield makes me think and sometimes it hurts my brain. 🤣

    1. Dale Paul Fox

      I know what you mean, Watson Bell. I’ve been a regular reader of this blog now for more than 5 years and have never been disappointed. His series on “letters to my granddaughter” is his latest installment of great thinking. In that case, we are learning what made him who he is today and why he was so good at his job. Hint, very few are promoted to General. I will keep coming back as long as the articles stay interesting and informative.

        1. Danny Burkholder

          We all do, just my thinking. And, it is incumbent upon us to also make recommendations to Gen. Satterfield for future article.s

      1. Laughing Monkey

        Yeah, and I’ve been a writer on this blog for years and Gen. Satterfield gets better each year.

  10. Jerome Smith

    “A statue helps center us morally and physically and demonstrates what we should sacrifice to be better than we are today. Not unlike our WWII statue that demonstrates the sacrifice of those who fought during that great war, the highest sacrifice any human can make, to put their life on the line in the fight against evil, in this case, embodied in German Nazism, Italian Fascism, and the Imperialism of the Japanese Empire.” — Gen. Doug Satterfield, and well said.

  11. Scotty Bush

    Another inspiring article. Sometimes when I read these articles, I think I’m just dumb because I think, hey, why didn’t I think of that. But that is life. Please continue giving us great stuff to think about, Gen. S. That is my way of saying THANKS. 😊

  12. Army Captain

    Wow, excellent. I’m happy you are still in contact with Mr. Joe Griffies. He is a great Vietnam Vet.

  13. Max Foster

    Gen. Satterfield, please continue to write about statues. I find the discussion fascinating. Why would we love to build statues? Certainly a question that we might quickly answer but the real meaning is much deeper philosophically and psychologically. I do believe this is where you are headed with this article. Please develop the idea further for us. I’d love to read more on your thoughts about why we build statues.

  14. Jonnie the Bart

    Gen. Doug Satterfield wrote, “Why do we build statues? Humans build statues to link themselves to the moral good of today and the future.” And that says it all.

    1. Karl J.

      True enough but there is more to the story and I think that is where Gen. Satterfield is headed with this second article on statues/memorials.

      1. Doug Smith

        This is indeed a moral story and Gen. Satterfield has injected himself into the idea that statues are more than brick and mortar.

  15. Wesley Brown

    Another powerful addition to Gen. Satterfield’s quest to discover why we build statues.

    1. Harry Man

      … and we continue to help him too with our words and thinking. Let’s help more and that will help us understand better those who would destroy statues. Are those people who destroy crazy? Yes, but we need to go further and understand them so to help them before they do more damage.

      1. Melo in Chicgo

        I loved that book too. ❤ If you’ve not yet read it, then you are definitely missing out. Get your copy today from Amazon and leave an honest review at Amazon.


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