Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Mr. Gorbachev...Tear Down This.......Statue?

That sound you hear is another statue, honoring a member or members of the Confederacy, hitting the ground. It was pulled down after having stood for over one hundred years because it offended some people to have to look at it; reminding them of a time when the United States was divided politically, racially, culturally and emotionally.  BTW, in case you hadn't noticed, we still are.

Of the more than 1503 public monuments and memorials to the Confederacy, more than 718 are monuments and statues. Nearly 300 monuments and statues are in Georgia, Virginia, or North Carolina alone. The # Black Lives Matter movement have all of these Confederate symbols in their sights and, apparently, will not be satisfied until they have all been eradicated from the public landscape. 

One question is, should this be allowed to continue?  Some of these removals are sanctioned and approved by local and state authorities who have every right to do so.  Some of these removals have even been approved by a majority of the electorate.  Even better. But, if statues are being hauled down and/or destroyed by people operating independently of authorized sanction, well, that sounds a bit like vandalism and lawlessness. There are two sides to this argument and here is what some people say to make a point:

• Some people are held responsible for things that happened before they were born, and other people are not held responsible for what they are doing right now.

Obviously, this phrase is being adopted by all of those who acknowledge no personal responsibility for a time when slavery was alive and well in our country and negatively impacting millions of minorities, mostly African-Americans. Not all of these people are bigots and racists, but most are angry that these symbols of their heritage are being defaced and destroyed.  They feel like this inappropriately denies and revises history, as ugly as it may have been.

The opposing side portray these statues and monuments as symbols of a racist, white supremacist society that no longer has a place in our country.  These people acknowledge that the evil of slavery was supported by our forefathers and, in some cases, our relatives fought to preserve a system of prejudice and injustice. They have no problem with removing these symbols in an attempt to demonstrate unity, equality and political correctness.

I can see both sides of the argument.  On the one hand, I agree that the Confederacy represents a dark period in American history. I, for one, am certainly not proud of that part of our American heritage. If people living and working in an area, local or state, no longer want those statues and monuments in their communities and vote, by referendum or otherwise, to remove them, that is their right. It does not, however, change history and the blight of slavery. And, I do not believe that defacing or removing these symbols by vandals, unruly mobs and those operating outside the law should be allowed.  And, the perpetrators should be punished.

In Stone Mountain, Georgia there is an enormous rock relief, the largest bas-relief in the world, whose carving depicts three Confederate figures, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.  It is larger than Mt. Rushmore and quite a site to see.  It is also the subject of widespread controversy, with some wanting to have it removed and some wanting to preserve this amazing sculpture.  Since Thomas Jonathon “Stonewall” Jackson is my great, great, great uncle from my paternal grandmother’s side of the family, I personally would like to see it preserved, not to represent the Confederacy (or racism or bigotry or white supremacy) but to honor a brave and fearless leader, however misguided his cause, and to preserve a unique work of art.

As I said in my initial post, none of this (racism, bigotry, etc.) changes until the heart of humankind is changed and, in my opinion, that is not dependent on whether there is a statue of Robert E. Lee on horseback residing in the town square of Podunk Hollow, Jawja.


1 comment:

  1. Many of these monuments were commissioned and erected in the 1920s - an era, like ours today, of heightened economic inequality. Coincidence? Hardly.
    A statement is made anytime a building, park, monument or statue is dedicated. Many of these Confederacy monuments, embodied, in steel and bronze and stone, the message of difference, segregation, and subjugation. I, for one, argue that their presence only serves to perpetuate this message. To the museums!
    I appreciate you bringing up Stone Mountain. As you know, this one wasn't constructed and completed in the 1920s but at the height of Civil Rights era gains. You've inspired more thinking and writing to come here. Thanks, as always, Jud.