Let Them Stand! Understanding Monuments

Hard not to have thoughts about the many situations roiling our country. One is the  “tear down Confederate monuments” uproar that follows on the Confederate flag brouhaha of some years back and the Charlottesville Tiki march of a few days ago.

One thought incorporated into supporting their removal is to note that  “the vast majority of monuments date to between 1895 and World War I.” Or, put another way, during the long era of Jim Crow. (1877 to 1964?).

Obviously the monuments could not have been put up much before 1860 or before the end of Reconstruction in 1877. After that it would take another chunk of years to raise funds etc. as the South rose out of the ashes of defeat. That it took time is never an argument against memorials which seek to recall things to mind. The DC Korean War memorial came 40 years after.

Another idea supporting their removal is “The monuments were put up as explicit symbols of white supremacy.” that quote is from an article that noted: “The group responsible for the majority of these memorials was the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC)”  Juxtaposing those two thoughts suggest an oxymoron. It seems to me that daughters of soldiers are mainly if not solely thinking of honoring the sacrifice and lives of their forebears. White supremacy was the least of their thoughts.

One anti- Confederate memorial writer suggests:“Apparently they see no conflict in both loving their nation and honoring people who sought to destroy it.” The other side of the coin is they fought not to destroy the United States but to leave it. They wanted their own country. Where did it say states could not succeed from the group they voluntarily joined!

That last quoted writer noted “Much of the conversation about the . . .  Confederate symbols correctly focuses on the deep insult to black Americans. That “brutally oppressive past” Haley mentioned is one of slavery, lynching and segregation driven by white supremacy.” True the evil of slavery is connected to the Confederacy but Confederate monuments have nothing to do with “lynching and segregation.” They came about after the Confederacy ceased to exist.

Slavery sins can be imputed to many of our Founding Fathers and fellows who signed the Constitution allowing it’s existence. Its evil touches many in the North:such as  those owning slave ships or great merchants benefiting from the spoils of slaves.  The White House itself is a memorial to slave labor as is Georgetown University. The hole is endless if we keep digging. Do we tear down all memorials to any with the connection to it?

We have seen it spread beyond the Confederacy. Calhoun Hall in Yale, Woodrow Wilson statue at Princeton, Chief Justice Taney statue in Maryland.all caught up in the cleansing. What is the purpose? We cannot erase it’s evil; isn’t it important to remember the past so we won’t repeat it and.more so to recognize that we all sin and should not be judged solely by our sins.

After the Civil War we reconciled. We were all Americans. We forgave the transgressions of the Southerners. We welcomed them back. They returned and joined with us to better our nation. Many served probably on a higher per capita basis than others in our Armed Forces during our wars that followed.

Do we tell these present day Americans their ancestors were traitors? Do we tell them that they cannot honor them for their bravery in fighting to preserve what they knew even though part of it was evil but an evil inherent in the founding of the country? Do we suggest to them they are lesser Americans as we did too long to our black citizens?

We must begin to construct an atmosphere of healing (not heeling). Tearing down is not building up. Blacks have suffered great evils but so have others in America to a lesser extent. The Native Americans, the Catholics, the Irish, Germans, Swedes, the late 19th century Jews, Italians, Eastern Europeans, Finns, Chinese, Japanese, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Latinos, and others all felt the stings and exclusions of other here.  Most memorials to Americans can be researched to find the person so memorialized was implicit in some wrong or another.

We cannot erase our past. We need not embrace it. We should remember it. We erect gravestones in tribute to our forebears so we can remember them in our own personal way. There’s no requirement before doing so that we or others pass judgment on their lives. So is it with our other memorials. Let them stand as a remembrance. We can always build more if need arises.

 

 

 

21 thoughts on “Let Them Stand! Understanding Monuments

  1. I recently posted on this. I lived in the North and now live in the South. I know hundreds of people that are the descendants of slaves and slave owners. Less than a mile from my house is the oldest Black Baptist Church in Fairfax County. I associate with some of the parishioners. In 23 years I have never heard a single word, pro or con, about a statue of a Confederate soldier from anyone from that church or the community in which they live. I am just stating what I have observed.

    Aside from that, I believe the statues should be left alone. If they are taken down they should probably include all of the monuments on the battlefield at Gettysburg that have been placed to honor the soldiers of the Confederate regiments that fought there. They also represent the men that decided to put their life on the line for a belief. For that matter why not bulldoze all of the National Battlefields that have been turned into National Parks where the South won the battle? Don’t those places glorify slave ownership, too? Fredricksburg and Ball’s Bluff. Harper’s Ferry and Kennesaw Mountain. There are dozens of them.

  2. A very fine post, Matt

    All Confederate soldiers were pardoned, save one.

    Lincoln used his Second Inaugural Address to touch on the question of Divine providence. He wondered what God’s will might have been in allowing the war to come, and why it had assumed the terrible dimensions it had taken. He endeavored to address some of these dilemmas, using allusions taken from the Bible.

    Lincoln reiterates the cause of the war, slavery, in saying “slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war”.

    The words “wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces” are an allusion to the Fall of Man in the Book of Genesis. As a result of Adam’s sin, God tells Adam that henceforth “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:19).

    Lincoln’s phrase, “but let us judge not, that we be not judged,” is an allusion to the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1 which in the King James Version reads, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

    Lincoln quotes another of Jesus’ sayings: “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” Lincoln’s quoted language comes from Matthew 18:7; a similar discourse by Jesus appears in Luke 17:1.

    Lincoln suggests that the death and destruction wrought by the war was divine retribution to the U.S. for possessing slavery, saying that God may will that the war continue “until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword”, and that the war was the country’s “woe due”. The quotation “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” is from Psalm 19:9.

    The closing paragraph contains two additional glosses from scripture “let us strive on to. . . bind up the nation’s wounds” is a reworking of Psalm 147:3. Also, “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan” relies on James 1:27.

  3. Re: “the vast majority of monuments date to between 1895 and World War I.” Or, put another way, during the long era of Jim Crow. (1877 to 1964?).

    Doubt if Jim Crow had much to do with it. At this time the Northern financial elite had decided on an Empire in lieu of a Republic. The memorializing of the Confederate heroes can be seen as securing the rear. After Wilson brought America into WWI the recruitment figures showed that the South would fight so there was less need for ancestral flapdoodling. Not the entire story to be sure but probably a part of it.

  4. Wa-llahi! A large number of the Confederate monuments were erected throughout the South after the First World War in response to the popularity of the KKK opus “Birth of a Nation. ” Wilson, a notable racist, liked the film so much, he had it screened in the WH. By the 1920’s the Jim Crow legal servitude system was so perfected, and, widely admired, by racists everywhere, that a delegation was sent from apartheid South Africa to study how America kept its’ Negroes in line.
    Confederate statuary has a multiplicity of meanings. For some, it exalts martial heroism, and, dignity in defeat, but, for the descendants of slaves, seeing those statues brings up the same thoughts, and, emotions, that the sight of an iron lawn jockey turned the wrong way elicit . Abe, do you know what an ill-turned lawn jockey means?

    No sooner had the South been vanquished than the planter class began repressing the newly freed Blacks. The KKK established under Bedford Forest in Pulaski Tenn. was the rebirth, and, continuation, of the slave catching militias that nightly cruised the roads, and, countrysides, looking for escaped slaves. In the antebellum South, chattel slavery was enforced by violence. The post war Jim Crow system also required violence for success. To African-Americans, Confederate memorial statues hearken back to those times of terror.

    True, enough, many peoples have immigrated to America, but, only one was brought here in chains. Take down Wilson’s statues.

    1. Listen to the words of Randy Newman’s song “Rednecks”.

      The White men of political correctness continue to tell Blacks what to think. I know a hell of a lot of Blacks and I don’t know any that hearten back to the times of terror when they see a statue of a soldier on a horse. If I knew one that would give enough of a shit to even look twice at the statue I would be mightily impressed. But to think they would research the name of the man on the horse and try to figure out what conflict was being represented? Sorry, it never made a difference to almost anyone, Black or White, in our age. I’m your buddy, Khalid, but your speculation on the emotions brought about in the hearts and minds of Black Americans when they look at a statue of a man on a horse is pretty thin broth.

      So, what does an ill-turned lawn jockey mean. And by the way, there are White lawn jockeys, too. I have repainted more than one or two of them.

      1. Abe: It’s a warning to black folks not to come around. That’s the polite interpretation. There’s a lot of ambient symbols of racism down South. I suppose, if you not Southern born you don’t see them. Its kind of like the sectarian conflict in the Six Counties. Maybe, no one is openly espousing hatred, but, the signs of it are all around. The prods love British war memorials. Their commemorations take on a definitely anti-nationalist air. Every hero’s grave is a reminder of empire. Ask your African-American friends about the lawn jockeys.

        1. Abe, maybe you’re right, perhaps, only African-American intellectuals are aware of the offense. Of course, those black intellectuals are leaders of their community, and, they speak with a compelling voice that the African American masses are willing to listen to. It’s one of the unintended consequences of affirmative action.

          1. It’s a Southern thing. I wouldn’t expect it up in Mass. There might be lawn jockeys around, but, they don’t convey the threat they do down South.

          2. How about those glass balls people have on pedestals on their front lawns? Are they frightening to Gypsy fortune tellers?

          3. Honest:

            I loved them. Always wanted to have a few. The better half for some reason would not let me have any to add to my pink flamingo collection.

          4. Abe , Do you know what the Turks used to do with adulterous wives ? They would sew them up in a sack with a cannonball and two live cats and throw it into the sea . I suppose glass balls would work for one just as well . Any instrument is loyal to the intent of its owner .

  5. Funny that you should mention that, John. I have a copy of the film Yol right next to me. It is about Turkey during the military rule in the 80’s. It is about several prisoners that are granted short paroles, all of which end in tragedy. Kind of horrific to some, but having met and worked for many Turks, not surprising to me. But brutal.

    I had a cousin-in-law that fought in Korea and there he witnessed some Turks punishing a Korean that stole from their camp larder. Not the kind of stuff I would discuss here except to say that no one ever stole from their camp again.

  6. The Turks are no more or less savage than many others . They are good at torturing women . Generally , men who torture women are less than men . They , like ISIS , are also terrified of the Kurdish Peshmerga female fighters , the YPJ . Saddam had female bodyguards . The cop, Joe Benson , who started the Boston K-9 in the sixties , swore by his bitch , Donna . I grew up with tough women . Brutal shits like the ones whose deeds you cringe at describing do not particularly impressed me. As Rudyard Kipling correctly noted long ago , ” The female is much more savage than the male .”
    I’ll take a Kurdish female Peshmerga for loyalty , savagery , and cunning over a Turk anytime . As far as having them for bosses , I am sure they were probably good to you. They seem to have a good head , for business .

    1. I’m married to a Red-headed, Irish, Leo. I know tough women, as you can imagine. She’s been compared to Maureen O’Hara’s character in The Quite Man. I must agree.

      The Turks I have worked for treated me well because they needed a good carpenter they could count on. And trust. My father told me to do every job like I was doing it for my mother. Just don’t expect a hot meal at the end of the day. Might be the best advice I ever got. I apply it, to this day, to every job I do.

  7. Washington Post (today):

    Just this month, 26 years after the U.S.S.R. ceased to exist, the Ukrainian government announced that it had finally removed every single remaining Lenin statue, all 1,320 of them. Hmmm…..

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