We already have a statue problem. President Donald Trump’s solution to the problem is ... more statues.

During his July 3 Mount Rushmore speech, the president announced his signing of an executive order proposing the creation of a statuary park, the National Garden of American Heroes.

Is this a serious proposal or is it an ad hoc gambit meant merely to defuse the current wave of statue toppling?

The executive order seems serious enough. It establishes a large “Interagency Task Force for Building and Rebuilding Monuments to American Heroes.” The task force will be chaired by the interior secretary and is required, within 60 days, to propose options for the National Garden, including potential locations. The order directs that the National Garden “should be open for public access” prior to July 4, 2026.

On the other hand, the order doesn’t actually provide resources for a National Garden. In fact, the task force is directed to find ways to use already existing appropriations to fund such a park, and it is directed to encourage states, businesses, individuals and civic and religious organizations to donate or loan already existing statues.

Thus, the statuary population of the National Garden could be defined by whoever wants to get rid of statues they don’t want anymore. Otherwise, potential inductees to the statuary park are almost unlimited. The executive order’s list of who might make the cut is staggeringly long.

At least three times the order suggests the inclusion of “Former Presidents of the United States.” By July 2026, there will be at least 45 to choose from. One wonders if Trump has any particular president in mind. And does that explain the emphatic directive that “All statues ... should be lifelike or realistic representations…not abstract or modernist”?

Who else might be included for statuary commemoration? Abolitionists, underground railroaders, scientists and inventors, entrepreneurs, police officers killed in the line of duty, astronauts, authors, intellectuals, advocates for the poor and “opponents of national or international socialism.”

If it’s not already clear how difficult picking and choosing will be, the executive order gets down to specifics. It directs that the National Garden include a baseline of 31 American heroes, starting with those we might expect: Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln.

Then the list of the requisite 31 heroes gets a little puzzling. It includes five Blacks and eight women. But no Hispanics? No Asians or Jews? No Native Americans? Sitting Bull? Chief Joseph? Tonto?

Further, no one has bothered to hide an obvious political orientation in the list of the essential 31. Antonin Scalia but not Thurgood Marshall? Ronald Reagan (of course) but not Franklin Roosevelt?

And what about Billy Graham, an American “hero” who for most of his long life contended that homosexuality is a “sinister form of perversion”?

In addition to the 31 on the essential list, the executive order specifies several American heroes who weren’t actually Americans: Christopher Columbus, Marquis de La Fayette and Junipero Serra.

Who was Junipero Serra? In 1749 Serra, a Spaniard, landed in Veracruz, and over the course of three decades he established a string of missions from Mexico into California, domesticating and Catholicizing the Indians along the way. Reputedly, his pastoral style was not always gentle.

In 1752, Serra wrangled an appointment as a regional Inquisitor (that’s Spanish Inquisition), which gave him the authority to seek out and punish demon-worshipers, who, he said, fly through the air at night and make sacrifices to demons in the guise of young goats.

Serra was into flagellation, and not just of the Indians. He regularly whipped himself with chains, beat himself with large stones and, when he preached about hellfire, he would sear himself in the pulpit with a candle flame.

What would the decorous, rational, buttoned-up John Adams say about being stuck in the same statuary park with a deranged zealot like Serra?

Fortunately, the idea of a National Garden sounds more like a campaign ploy than a serious proposal. Let’s hope so. We can’t even agree on the statues that we already have, much less a passel of new ones.

John M. Crisp, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, lives in Georgetown, Texas, and can be reached at jcrispcolumns@gmail.com.

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