The United States is in the midst of a struggle over how to remember national history. Since the mid-2010s, much of this struggle has focused on historic monuments. No other country has seen as many monument attacks, renamings, and removals as the United States in this period. This article explores whether monument attacks are an acting out of value conflicts. The distinction between “heroic” and “wounded” modes of remembering the past helps to understand attackers’ motivations. The author compares three types of attacks: 1) on monuments that represent racism, slavery, and white supremacy; 2) monuments associated with violence against Native Americans; and 3) the storming of the u.s. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Freud defined “acting out” (abagieren) as a form of nonverbal working through of past conflicts. Instead of a conscious remembering, a suppressed affect is acted out by repeating it (Wiederholung). The more that conscious remembering is repressed, the stronger the will to act out. This article argues that acting out is a failed attempt at resolving value conflicts.

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