Saturday, March 11, 2006


The newly-commissioned statue of Churchill in a straightjacket has, understandably, caused a lot of debate. Seeing a national hero in such an unusual setting is unsettling; it will cause controversy from those that believe the past is simple, that there is good and bad, that any individual figure can be a perfect template for people to follow.

That, of course, is nonsense. There is very little of any consequence in life that can be distilled into good and bad. More important, when considering the statue, is whether it goes unnecessarily out of its way to be provocative. I am not convinced that it portrays the message it wants in the most effective way. Yes, there is a negative stigma with mental disease, and it is right to raise awareness that mental illness isn't just the domain of those in direct care for their treatment.

But this statue of Churchill portrays it as the defining characteristic of him. Is that a fair depiction? I'm not sure. I can also understand how his family might find it unsettling to see him depicted in such a manner.

Nevertheless, I think the ultimate message from the statue is one of great hope for all of us. Churchill did write about his depression feeling like a straightjacket at times. If someone who felt mentally constrained was able to achieve what he did, it is a stunning testament to the ability of the human brain.