Dolly Parton to Tennessee: Thanks for the thought, but now’s not the time for a statue of me

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She’s not the hero we deserve, but Dolly Parton is the hero America needs. Tennessee lawmakers had hoped to move on from a debate over Confederate memorials by honoring one of the most beloved Volunteers instead. The idea of building a statue of Parton quickly gained bipartisan support and a bill quickly emerged to authorize its installation.

And just as quickly, Parton put an end to the plan in her humble and charming way:

The singer released a statement on Thursday asking the Tennessee General Assembly to pull a bill that would have started the process for commissioning a statue of her.

“Given all that is going on in the world, I don’t think putting me on a pedestal is appropriate at this time,” Parton said in the statement, which was posted on Twitter and Instagram.

A monument to Parton gained support during a debate over whether to remove the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a former Confederate general, slave trader and leader of the Ku Klux Klan, from the Tennessee State Capitol. In 2019, a Republican House leader, Representative Jeremy Faison, suggested Parton as a potential replacement for the Forrest bronze; in January, a Democratic legislator, Representative John Mark Windle, introduced a bill to initiate plans for the statue on Capitol grounds. According to the bill, the statue would be positioned to face Ryman Auditorium, a storied country music venue.

In her statement, Parton, 75, left the option open for a statue to be erected in the future, writing, “I hope, though, that somewhere down the road several years from now or perhaps after I’m gone if you still feel I deserve it, then I’m certain I will stand proud in our great State Capitol as a grateful Tennessean.”

I’m reminded of something Douglas Adams wrote in his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, about how only those who seek no power whatsoever should be trusted with it. I’m tempted to say the same thing about statues, but as Parton notes, that’s usually left to those left behind anyway. And Parton’s not exactly a shrinking violet, of course — she’s not refusing the honor outright. She’s saying, humbly but also correctly, that this kind of discussion can wait until after pandemics have been defeated.

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On that note, Parton also deserves some accolades. After all, her $1 million donation to vaccine research helped develop the Moderna vaccine, which she didn’t know until after the pharmaceutical released its list of sponsors just before getting an emergency-use authorization from the FDA. My wife has already received her first dose last week of the Moderna vaccine, so that makes us even bigger fans of Parton than we were already.

That makes this part of her statement sweetly ironic. “Given all that is going on in the world,” Parton wrote, “I don’t think putting me on a pedestal is appropriate at this time.” I’d bet there are millions in America who disagree, Ms. Parton.

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