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.