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In the 80's(?) I read a story in an secondhand anthology that may be called "There Stands a Statue." The plot I remember is something like this.

In the park there stands a statue; like many others it is a man on a pedestal and on the pedestal is an inscription. The inscription consist of three dates. They are not the dates of his birth or death or any remarkable achievement. They are the dates on which his government sentenced him to death or life imprisonment for treason against the human species.

The bulk of the 5-10 page story tells how:

  1. Aliens arrive and Earth panics and rushes desperately to get them before they get us. Protagonist says, Hey guys, maybe they aren't hostile; maybe we should talk first before we start shooting. The government tries, convicts, and imprisons the pacifist fool. It turns out the aliens are peaceful; peace, love, technology transfer, and prosperity ensue. Everybody is happy and the government pardons the protagonist.

  2. Protagonist notices that humans are becoming increasingly dependent on, and vulnerable to the aliens, who on further investigation seem to be setting up a bloodless subjugation of humanity. The government tries, convicts, and imprisons the xenophobic, hate-mongering enemy of peace and prosperity. But some people were listening and asking, What if he's right? How do we prepare? When the aliens spring their trap, a long bloody, desperate struggle ensues during which protagonist is again pardoned and brought into government.

  3. Victory is in sight; another 6-12 months and we'll exterminate the monsters. Protagonist opens his fat mouth again. This time he says: Extinction is a tragedy, genocide is a crime. We know how they think. We have proven our ability to punish a double-cross. They have knowledge we want. We are the victors; let us offer a generous peace and establish a more realistic, equal and mutually beneficial relationship. Once again the government tries, convicts and imprisons this crazy, alien-loving traitor to his species. This time he dies in prison before good sense prevails and his strategy is implemented.

Thrice imprisoned and thrice a hero. Pardoning a dead man doesn't seem like an adequate response, so they proclaim him a hero and ... in the center of the city there is a park, and in the center of the park there stands a statue.

That's the way I remember it. I would love to read it again.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F! This is a very well-written question. Since a possible answer was suggested in a comment, you should comment in turn if that answers (or doesn't answer) your question. – DavidW Dec 9 '19 at 4:00
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"'In a Good Cause—'", a 1951 novelette by Isaac Asimov, which was also the answer to this old question among others. Under the title "Ideals Die Hard" it was reprinted in Authentic Science Fiction No. 78, March 1957 which is available at the Internet Archive. Does any of these covers ring a bell?


Excerpts from the beginning of the story:

In the Great Court, which stands as a patch of untouched peace among the fifty busy square miles devoted to the towering buildings that are the pulse beat of the United Worlds of the Galaxy, stands a statue.

[. . . .]

The name on the pedestal reads "Richard Sayama Altmayer." Underneath it is a short phrase and, vertically arranged, three dates. The phrase is: "In a good cause, there are no failures." The three dates are June 17, 2755; September 5, 2788; December 21, 3000;—the years being counted in the usual manner of the period, that is, from the date of the first atomic explosion in 1944 of the ancient era.

None of those dates represents either his birth or death. They mark neither a date of marriage or of the accomplishment of some great deed or, indeed, of anything that the inhabitants of the United Worlds can remember with pleasure and pride. Rather, they are the final expression of the feeling of guilt.

Quite simply and plainly, they are the three dates upon which Richard Sayama Altmayer was sent to prison for his opinions.


Wikipedia plot summary:

The story opens with a description of a statue on the grounds of the United Worlds organisation raised to Richard "Dick" Altmayer. It displays a quote and three dates, which correspond to the three days upon which he was arrested for his beliefs. The first is in the year 2755 of the "Atomic Era" (corresponding to 4700 CE in Asimovean chronology).

Altmayer and his friend Geoffrey Stock have opposing positions when conscripted into military service for a war between human-occupied star systems. Stock willingly reports for military duty, whilst Altmayer protests, believing that the various interstellar nations of humanity should be united against the Diaboli, an intelligent non-human race that also occupies several planetary systems in the galaxy.

Over a 45-year period, Stock reaches high military rank and then political office, whilst Altmayer is imprisoned and kept under house arrest several times for his radical idealism. He starts political parties and protest movements, all of which fail to achieve their objectives of uniting humanity.

Ultimately, Altmayer's desire for a united humanity is achieved after a war against the Diaboli. This unity, however, has been realised only through Stock's political manipulations rather than Altmayer's idealistic actions. Stock asks his one-time friend to be one of the delegates from Earth to a peace conference, but realizes that history will not record his own participation in the unification of humanity, but will instead vilify him as a cruel and short-sighted politician.

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