Monday, August 14, 2017

Confederate Monuments - Should They Be Moved?

Over the last few years there has been quite a movement to erase history.  Now, before you assume you know which side I fall on based on that statement, please read on.  

We have a past, a notable and memorable and yet at times an ugly past.  Our Civil War past encapsulates both the notable and the ugly.  States in the south rebelled against the government, in some hazy respects like the thirteen colonies rebelled against England.  Yet in many ways, this rebellion was nothing like the rebellion that secured the United States as a separate country.  This southern rebellion was not because those states who tried to secede from the Union were being taxed unfairly or were not being represented within the framework of a legal government.  They were taxed like other states, and they were represented like other states.  These states seceded over what they perceived were states rights issues, issues that were driven by economics, and those economics in turn driven by the peculiar institution of slavery.  So when I read or hear about southerners calling the Civil War the second war of rebellion or the war of northern aggression, I laugh, snicker, and cringe as typically the commentator is most likely uneducated as to the causes of the war and the reason the southern states felt the need to secede.  

This lack of education permeates our current society.  When I see a pickup truck driving down the road with the Confederate battle flag being displayed, usually in conjunction with a gun rack and a pair of rubber gonads dragging from the trailer hitch, I am always a bit put off, angered, and intolerant of said obvious redneck.  Can that driver name ten, no make it FIVE, Confederate generals?  "Sure,  I can...Bobby Lee, Stonewall, JEB...and...and...."  Nope, they can't.  They claim heritage not hate, yet display a flag that we ALL know incites anger and at times fear in 12% of our population (based on the 2010 census).  It is one thing to have the battle flag correctly displayed at reenactments, in museums, or Confederate cemeteries, but to be a Bubba who is purposely calling themselves a "rebel," (a rebel against what, self-inflicted ignorance?), knowing full well that their display only serves to divide, is beyond my ability to understand.  Instead of studying the war, engaging all the facets and facts, realizing that the war has so many layers and truths, they display a race-hating flag.  Just look at the number of southern states, long after the war was over, who included the battle flag as part of their state flag.  Heritage?  Wouldn't heritage be displaying the state flag that was used at the time of the war?  No, sorry, but this incorrect use of the battle flag is truly for one reason only, to prove ignorance and hate.  Fly the flag when it should be flown, drop it at all other times because Bubba's ignorance and "heritage" represents only hate.

Having said all that, the other side of this coin also needs to understand our history, and it is our history.  There are things that occurred that we are not proud of, but in no way should we go out of the way to destroy those stories.  The monuments that are allegedly so offensive have become historic in their own right.  Many have been in existence for decades, and they become their own story.  If they are located in a public location, a location such a public park or government facility, then perhaps either avoid the monument if that dead dude on a horse offends you, or instead of defacing the monument, work with local historical entities to see if there might be a more suitable place, meaning one less offensive and still visible to those wanting to see monuments to men who did sacrifice to a cause they believed in, even if the cause seems foolish to me.  If a small town wants the statue for their park, then let them have it and move on.  If a cemetery can accept the monument, then accept that and move on.  But busing in outside trouble makers to protest or deface only causes deeper issues.  Let the locals work together towards a solution.  I can imagine there are enough locations that would accept a Bobby Lee statue in a place that should be less intrusive.  There is no need to destroy the monument.  Imagine tearing down or vandalizing the Jefferson Monument. (You know he owned slaves, right?  You know that he was encouraged several times by Revolutionary hero Tadeusz Kościuszko to set his slaves free?)

Our Civil War is filled with deeds and disasters, heroes and villains (on both sides), and is one of the largest chapters of our history.  Perhaps a little more education, and a little more cooperation between local entities, will help bridge the gap between the extremes.  Instead of demanding that a statue or monument be removed, start an educated discourse on why it could be offensive.  Instead of being a redneck displaying a flag of rebellion, maybe understand that it causes a group of our citizens discord and discomfort.  And perhaps that status of a slave-owning general might cause some discomfort as well.  Move the monuments?  Perhaps, but let the local citizens decide their fate and relocation while at the same time understanding the history behind that historic statue.  

4 comments:

  1. Excellent post! There is a local sovereignty issue here as well. Let local governments decide what they want in their local. If they want to move a statue, that is not a concern to outsiders. It's their democratic right to decide without interference.

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  2. Thank you for the feedback, Mayor. Outsiders need to stay outside the decision. Hmmm, I guess that makes me aan outsider though when it comes to the CBF? :)

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  3. In Charlotte, the city council had voted to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee. The outsiders who came in were protesting that decision. Right after that violence, Baltimore removed four Confederate monuments that celebrated Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson; Confederate soldiers and sailors; the women of the Confederacy; and Roger Taney, the Supreme Court justice behind the notorious Dred Scott decision. Local control indeed. The Governors of Maryland and Tennessee are also taking action to remove such monuments from public lands.

    Most of these Confederate monuments are whitewashed paeans to the Lost Cause, not historical markers. And I would not be sad to see them go.

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  4. Thanks for the comments, Scott. I would say that while there has been local influence for monument movement, I would also say that a loud but small group have caused most of these moves and that might not represent the majority of citizen opinion. I wouldn't want the local governing bodies to cave in to politically correct pressure without vetting all concerned parties. I just hope that going forward folks work together to find solutions as opposed to what happened in Durham.

    As for Lost Cause icons, that maybe true, but as many of these monuments have been in place for one hundred years, they also are historic. Would we want to tear down the Pennsylvania monument at Gettysburg since it is a part of the battle? The monument itself, based on design, artist, etc., has made it historic. I am far from a Lost Cause supporter...they lost, they are not going to rise again, but moving these monuments to a more suitable location might be the way to move forward.

    Of course now we have loud mouths demanding that statues of Washington be moved. Are we caving in to that as well?

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