America’s great reckoning with its racist past gathers momentum

America is going through a paroxysm of historical anguish.

Everything connected to this country’s tarnished and racist past is under scrutiny.

Statues of leaders linked to slavery, or brutality, or conquest of America’s indigenous population, are facing this reckoning.

The latest to be ignominiously toppled is none other than Christopher Columbus. His statue has been removed by protesters in Minneapolis, the same city that witnessed the death of George Floyd.

The next to be taken down - but with official approval - is likely to be the imposing statue of General Robert E. Lee that lies on Monunment Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, the old capital of the Confederacy.

And now Nancy Pelosi, the powerful Speaker of the House of Representatives, is demanding the removal of eleven - yes, eleven - statues that stand within the halls of Congress itself.

But this historical re-assessment is already extending beyond statues. A call has gone out - led by the former CIA Director and four-star general David Petraeus - to rename military bases that celebrate Confederate military leaders.

If Petraeus has his way, there will be no more Fort Bragg in North Carolina, no more Fort Hood in Texas - perhaps America’s two most famous military installations.

As Petraeus puts it, the majority of Confederate leaders before the Civil War “wore the uniform of the U.S. Army, and that Army should not brook any celebration of those who betrayed their country.”

The President has other ideas, of course, seeing political advantage in mocking such attempts to revise historically resonant names.

But the President may be behind the curve of his own military commanders.

Both the US Marine Corps and the US Navy have announced they are banning all public displays of the Confederate battle flag.

The commander-in-chief may not realise it, but many in his armed forces do.

America is changing.

And the symbols and statues that honour slavery are not going to survive the public mood sweeping this country.