We don’t always go to cemeteries just to visit the graves of our loved ones.
Often, we go to experience our heritage. To learn about the people who came before us, and therefore to learn a little bit about ourselves, where we were as a society and where we are today.
If you’ve ever been to an old graveyard and read the markers of children who died at a very young age due to some now-eradicated disease, you get that lesson.
Or walk through a cemetery around Memorial Day or Veterans Day and scan the flags on the graves of our military heroes, and you get that lesson.
Cemeteries aren’t just vessels to keep our dead. They’re vessels to keep our history.
So what better solution to end the debate over where to place Albany’s statue of controversial Revolutionary War hero Philip Schuyler than in the cemetery where he’s buried?
The Colonie Historical Society, according to the Times Union, is asking Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan to consider moving the prominent statue of Schuyler to Albany Rural Cemetery, where Schuyler’s grave is marked by a tall stone marker.
Sheehan ordered Schuyler’s statue removed from its place of honor in front of City Hall where it’s been for the past 95 years because in addition to being a Revolutionary War hero and early state and local political figure, Schuyler was a prominent slave holder.
While a wealthy man owning slaves might not have been unusual in that era, it’s certainly not something society wishes to honor today with a prominent statue on government property.
So why not, instead, follow the historical society’s idea and move the statue to a place where people go to learn about history and to get a sense of our nation’s past, our present and our future?
The statue could be complemented by a new historic marker highlighting not only information about Schuyler’s life, but about the statue itself, including the reason it was moved.
Future visitors to Schuyler’s grave site could do more than just honor his contributions to society.
They could learn about the darker elements of his past and reflect upon them, using the statue as the basis for contemplative discussion and study.
This solution should satisfy both supporters of honoring Schuyler and those who oppose giving him a place of honor.
Placing the statue in a quiet area of the cemetery where Schuyler is buried would give him his place in history and allow future citizens a place to study his legacy thoughtfully.
That should be its final resting place.