What would Henry Clay be thinking if he were alive today? Probably, “How do I get out of this coffin?”
And since a reanimated Great Compromiser won’t be tunneling toward daylight anytime soon, allow yours truly to “pinch hit” on some compromise suggestions to ease this Cheapside Park kerfuffle.
First, we stick a tuba on John Hunt Morgan and call him “John Phillip Sousa.” It’s a three-word name. It starts with “John.” That might be the best deal you can get, Confederates.
Option two: lose the “Hunt,” slap on a concrete business suit, and suddenly it’s legal eagle John Morgan (of the Morgan & Morgan law firm), the man whose advertising largesse is helping keep local TV news afloat.
As for John C. Breckinridge, why not modify that middle initial and a few syllables, and honor John D. Rockefeller? Or Nelson Rockefeller? Or Ozzie Nelson, Ozzie Smith, Kate Smith, Kate Upton, Upton Sinclair, Sinclair Lewis, Lewis Black, Shirley Temple Black, “Laverne & Shirley” or Fido the Wondercat? The planet is replete with deserving mammals.
And if you want to keep it more Civil War-ish, try these unsung heroes on for size:
▪ General Bascomb “Chain-Link Fence” Fishbane. Historians agree his decision to forfeit the battle of Gap Lick probably shortened the war by 10 to 15 seconds.
▪ The border states’ favorite son, Colonel Alonzo T. Flodkramper, a.k.a. “Old Half & Half,” whose blue-gray uniform and confusing “Bars & Stripes” flag allowed him to fake his way through battle after battle as an “ally” of both sides.
▪ General Hiram “No Nickname” Oatcastle. Known for having every conceivable type of 19th-century facial hair. Tragically felled by a sniper’s bullet at the second battle of Bull Run while combing his forehead.
If that trio doesn’t cut the mustard, maybe we stick 30 more statues in Cheapside Park and say it’s a giant Civil War chess set.
Another possibility: instead of moving the statues to a museum, we put a full-fledged, open-air, outdoor Civil War museum and antebellum entertainment plaza around the statues — with balloons, Mickey Mouse-style walking caricatures of Jeff Davis and Robert E. Lee, a gift shop, Appomattox Funhouse, the works!
Look for food vendors serving up bonafide Civil War-style chow — 1861 grub at 2017 prices. The bill of fare includes Antietam-style hardtack and dried beans. And save room for the desiccated potatoes!
If you need first-aid, we’ll have an 1860s-style Red Cross tent, stocked with the best nostrums and elixirs available to soothe any 19th-century malady, from dropsy to the vapors. But remember, circa 1861, if you cut yourself shaving, doctors would amputate your face.
The welcome mat would be out for everyone (from protesters, to counter-protesters, to counter-counter- counter protesters), especially if you have an “alt” anywhere in your name: alt-right, alt-left, and the underappreciated alt-moderate (or “alt-mod”) movement.
That alt-moderate crowd will find the gift shop especially handy. For moderate, undecided types planning an ambivalence rally, we’ll sell placards reading, “We’re Not Sure,” “We Could Go Either Way on This,” and the ever-popular “?????”
In no time, they’ll be crooning that always-underwhelming protest chant, “TWO, FOUR, SIX, EIGHT – RHYMING’S NOT OUR STRONG SUIT EITHER.”
I always enjoy listening to people who will argue slavery had absolutely nothing to do with the Civil War. NOTHING. We’re not forgetting those folks, either. An educational annex will offer elocution lessons for the “facts optional” crowd, giving them the proper phraseology to pontificate on the war’s real causes: the hay tax, pig suffrage, fallout from the 1860 sorghum famine.
Hopefully, some or all of this will become reality. Then, Cheapsiders, enjoy the Compromise of 2017: relax in the shade of Colonel Flodkramper, whistle “Dixie” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” simultaneously, and share a salt-pork smoothie with an alt-modder.
Henry Clay would be proud. If he wasn’t dead.
Toby Gibbs of Lexington is a community columnist. Email him at email@example.com.