Give Me A Minute – The Monuments

I live in the North. Illinois. None of my relatives fought in the Civil War, but it’s a period in history that’s interesting to me. I’ve read a lot of the classics and Shelby Foote, Bruce Catton, James McPherson and Jeff Shaara are authors whose writing I really enjoy. I believe Abraham Lincoln was an amazing man with an impossible agenda; to heal a deeply divided nation.

You know the background. A statue of Robert E. Lee was to be removed from Charlottesville, Virginia. A mob showed up, violence erupted and a woman, protesting a rally of “white nationalists,” was killed by a car that deliberately ran through the crowd.

Now we want to pull the monuments down that recognize Southern leaders. Not all of them maybe, but enough of them. I read that General Lee opposed erecting monuments to remember the war. “As regards the erection of such a monument as is contemplated, my conviction is, that however grateful it would be to the feelings of the South, the attempt in the present condition of the Country, would have the effect of retarding, instead of accelerating its accomplishment; [and] of continuing, if not adding to, the difficulties under which the Southern people labour.”

It is interesting that the government Lee and the South fought against, put Lee and other Southern leaders on many U.S. Postage stamps. Lee is on four or five. The Stone Mountain Monument stamp has Lee, ‘Stonewall’ Jackson, and Jefferson Davis on it. We probably need to go back to the people who licked them and stuck ‘em on envelopes and tell them they are guilty of war crimes.

Some people still say the Civil War was about “states’ rights.” I don’t think so. It was about slavery. But what about the monuments? Should we remove them? Will that solve our nation’s deep seated hatred, racism, bigotry, anger issues? The monuments are part of our history. Agreed, it was a dark time in our nation’s past where men and women of color were treated horrifically. But the monuments are part of who we are. They are part of who many people still are.

I remember when the NCAA decided that Chief Illiniwek had to go. He was the University of Illinois mascot. It was determined that he violated Native American student civil rights. Really? Where do we draw the line? Maybe we should chisel Washington and Jefferson from Mount Rushmore. They were slave owners. The 7th US Cavalry Memorial where Custer and his men were buried is probably on the list too.

I say leave the monuments alone. When you see one, remember the events associated with it. Reflect…Remember….Leave it alone.

 

 

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4 comments

  1. I have to politely disagree with you. I’m a history and Civil War buff too, and at first I was bothered by removal of statues, which I’ve seen a lot of in my travels. But I’ve since come to think differently. We’re not affecting history at all by removing them. The “history” is still there, and it can still be remembered via museums, books, photos, diaries, etc. Interpretations of history do change, because people and attitudes change, and new facts are always being uncovered, but those interpretations aren’t affected by whether or not a statue sits in a public place. Don’t kid yourself: these statues were erected as a statement, just as the rebel flag is a statement. At first the statement was subtle, justified as “Southern heritage.” But now, since white nationalists have co-opted statues and flags, they’re blatant badges of hate. Civilized societies – if they’re truly “civilized” – evolve over time, they don’t remain static. Here’s a good article by another Civil War buff who’s seen a lot of statues in his time:

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