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June 26, 2015

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Bob Strassfeld

Al, unless I'm mistaken you made this one too easy to find. It stands in front of the Durham County Courthouse in North Carolina.

AGR

I've been thinking about you in relation to all the controversy about monuments. Don't you think that monuments end up not being just about history, but about the present. I've always seen Confederate monuments and the battle flag as a symbol of defiance and as signals to the black population about who is in control.

Al

Bob, yes! You got that right. Sorry again about the quality of the picture.

AGR, I agree with you. The monuments may be about the present, probably often are. My default position is against removal. But if the community decides a monument is particularly offensive and it's still politically relevant I understand a d support the removal. Though I was imitially against renaming Saunders hall I think that is one example. The removal of the Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad is another. I will say more about this soon.

My biggest fear is that this will permit forgetting. Removal is often in service of the interests of the powerful.

terry malloy

"permit forgetting"

What do you say we replace all of these triumphal confederate monuments with something more fitting, like the naked stones of the german holocaust museum.

My great great great grandfather got shot by a rebel in the middle of nowhere Virginia (the dense swampy brush outside spotsylvenia) because the south wanted to keep its labor force in chains.

These war memorials say in stone what many southerners can no longer say in public "remember when we [whites] had absolute power. what a glorious time."

Derek Tokaz

Al,

Wasn't the decision to remove the Hussein statue a decision made by US troops, and not the local Iraqi community?

anon

Certainly, the dozens of buildings named after Robert Byrd of West Virginia must be renamed.

And, all those who praised and excused and supported Robert Byrd must be held accountable, ala Trent Lott no?

But, why stop there?

I've heard also there is talk about tearing down the Jefferson Memorial: slave holder, Sally Hemmings, etc.

It seems to me that it is one thing to ask the government to display neutral symbols (although, getting all the symbols in Washington that are offensive to one group or another removed - such as the image of the prophet that appears in numerous places in the USSCT - will be a massive undertaking). This is akin to a religious debate, and symbols of one religion or another are inappropriate in public spaces.

Let's start the destruction of symbols, by all means, asap!

But, that isn't the only destination here. Huck Finn has been pulled from the library. Perhaps it should now be publicly burned. Gone with the Wind is gone with the wind. Must we now begin to erase the memory of such works? How exactly is that accomplished by the enlightened, open minded, tolerant, caring individuals leading these campaigns? After all, we are only advocating freedom: the freedom to be rid of ideas with which we disagree (and the people who hold them).

This is how it begins when the paragons of political virtue induce the government to start dictating not only how one must act, but also how one must think, what opinions one must hold, what beliefs one must hold dear: and what opinions one must revile and punish.

An election is coming, and there are lines to be drawn and masses to be spun into hysteria.

Here's the key to understanding: look for that Robert Byrd campaign. You won't find it.

terry malloy

I know, isn't it a shame that the Jefferson memorial explicitly celebrates the fact that he was a slaveowner?

Confederate memorials are designed to remember fondly a war where the south fought for what it believed in: the supremacy of the white race. full stop.

Other than that what are these memorials commemorating? Southern pride. . . in the supremacy of the white race.

You can burn all the crosses in your yard that you'd like, it is your property. The government shouldn't put up a monument to a white supremacy movement that took a civil war to quell.

I'm beginning to think that it would have been wiser to let the confederacy wallow in their ignorance rather than restore the union. it would be like having Uzbekistan as a neighbor.

Al Brophy

Derek, there's a dispute about the extent to which locals participated in the decision to topple the Saddam Hussein statue. Certainly some locals supported it, as I understand it, and the United States worked in conjunction with them (and I guess we'd say at their behest). Whether that story is true or it was more the act of the US I'm not certain. At any rate, it was taken down as part of a regime change and during the regime change.

There are plenty of other examples, including the George III statue in New York city during the American Revolution, of toppling statues as part of a contemporary political/military dispute.

anon and Terry Malloy, I appreciate your participating in this discussion. I'm guessing these disputes aren't going to be settled anytime soon.

Bill Turnier

We have to be careful about taking down memorials to past historical figures. Every era has its normative standards and these are constantly evolving. No man or woman from three centuries ago would likely stand up to our present standards. Say nothing about two or three millennia. Poor Plato, Caesar and Charlemaigne. Washington had slaves as did Jefferson. Franklin treated his wife as a business partner and wrenched his way around two continents. And what about us. A few centuries from now we may be excoriated as a greedy self centered lot whose appetite for material goods and travel made large parts of the globe uninhabitable and led to the eradication of many now common species to say nothing of near extinct species. Best to kindly judge the past in the hope that the future will accord us the same gentle treatment.

anon

As the LA Times reports, CNN anchors discussed the Jefferson Memorial:

"Fellow anchor Don Lemon responded by saying Jefferson represented "the entire United States, not just the South." But he added: "There may come a day when we want to rethink Jefferson. I don't know if we should do that [now]."

The hate and venom dripping from the lips of the purifiers (evidenced, e.g., by railing against points conceded in an effort never to get to agreement or understanding, hyperbolic accusations and name calling to prevent reconciliation) wouldn't fit well in the mouth of Lincoln, though.

While we are purging, however we should probably tear down Lincoln's monument too. After all, according to the History Channel's reportage:

On September 18, 1858, at Charleston, Illinois, Lincoln said: “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races." He opposed blacks having the right to vote, to serve on juries, to hold office and to intermarry with whites.

And like Thomas Jefferson, Lincoln favored colonization of the former slaves. In 1854, Lincoln said he would prefer “to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia.” In 1864, Lincoln told a delegation of freed slaves at the White House that it would be “better for us both ... to be separated.”

Of course, we could dig up many more quotes from Lincoln that prove that he repeatedly advocated "the supremacy of the white race." Or, we could look more recently to Robert Byrd, and campaign to remove his name and likeness from every public space.

Let's definitely not look to the leadership of S. Carolina today, and the people of S. Carolina, white and black, and their conduct in the face of a tragedy. Let's not celebrate the progress and enlightenment there and almost everywhere in the United States. Instead, let's reopen old wounds and pretend that nothing has changed since the confederacy and Lincoln, and go on a campaign to, yes, purge the public, not the public spaces (few, I think, vigorously oppose the latter).

Because, who will be motivated to vote based on something positive? We all know that getting people to vote AGAINST something, especially against someone, is the best way to win elections.

AGR

The Jefferson Memorial talk is not real, and is a distraction from the problem of honoring the Confederacy and Confederates in public spaces. Museums and history books, which provide context, can tell that story.

Derek Tokaz

Whatever happened to the "support the troops, not the war" mantra that we heard so much of a few years ago?

anon

"the problem [is] honoring the Confederacy and Confederates in public spaces."

Well, that seems to be not much of a problem, actually. Texas recently won in the Supreme Court a case considering its REFUSAL to even allow private citizens to display the CF. SC has taken it off state grounds. Other states are following suit quite quickly. Private vendors will not carry it. What is the point of "railing against points conceded"? Is all this evidence of the "white supremacy" movement in this country?

It is one thing to ask the government to display only neutral symbols but the rhetoric and accusations hardly stop there.

There is an election coming, and taking "yes, we agree" for an answer will never do. The evil ones are evil and even their conciliations are evil.

Let's not stop with purging Huck Finn and Gone with the Wind. Didn't the nation that fought with the native peoples of this continent to preserve and expand the notion of white privilege and manifest destiny fight under the banner of the stars and stripes? Did not the government in Washington support that genocide? Who wants to keep that flag?

Hint: the other party!

Bonus question: Which party is supporting a bill in Congress to study continuing means to help ameliorate to the greatest extent possible the tragic effects of this stain on American history? (Hint: you probably haven't heard, because the answer is: both.)

AGR

There are still plenty of Confederate monuments out there in public spaces. We have a long way to go before they are made scarce.

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