In continuing the matter of the removal of Confederate monuments, there were more comments from my friends who participated in my interviewing process that couldn’t be squeezed into my previous blog that should and needs to be shared. Following this, I’d like to ponder the effects of the removal of these monuments on us Americans.
To start out, Tony, who does not favor the removal of all the Confederate monuments, states, “I think if we try and erase the story of a people, we discredit both the good and the bad that came from the culture.” He then added, “I think this is largely a battle between extremists on both ends of the political spectrum and that if this objective is achieved, it will not be the end of anything. It will likely serve to further polarize our political discourse and fail to bring about healing and growth.”
Candice echoed Tony’s response, saying, “Extremists on both sides are pushing triggers all over the place. The media is feeding the extremism, and people are pushed more and more to take a stance.”
Concerned over more divisions, Kelly says, “I hate what is going on. It really saddens me. This is a problem that we all are experiencing and not because I am white or I am black. It’s we as a people, and only we can stop it.”
Tim’s comments on the issue of removing the monuments were similar to Tony’s, saying, “It is all part of our story as Americans, good, bad, and ugly. We should own all of it.”
Concetta sees the removal of monuments as opening a pandora’s box in causing further strife, remarking, “Unfortunately, you can’t erase history. If you begin, where do you stop?” and proceeded to mention Washington and other Founding Fathers who owned slaves.
In contrast, Tina illustrated her position by saying, “I think our country’s ‘life’ is much like our own. We all have a past that we hopefully grow and learn from – evolve. And with each passing day, we kind of connect the dots. On our own journey, we fall and get back up over and over again, but sometimes, years later, we’ll be stumbling with something…something emotional, etc., and we realize it’s this floating piece from the past that we thought we sorted out, but here it is. So we sit with it, face it, fix it, and move forward. To me, that’s what these statues are. We’ve had a long journey with bigotry in the country, and we’ve come a long way, but we still have things to unpack to get to the place of resolve.”
Lee also sees the removal of the monuments as a progressive step in the direction of eliminating bigotry and racism, saying, “Here in Phoenix, our mayor, Greg Stanton, has been working to change the names of several streets, such as Squaw Valley Road, Robert E. Lee Street, etc. It’s all part of the same drive to be sensitive to other cultures and stop the racial slurs and bigotry of the past. Monuments are in the same category.”
Looking at this issue and our history, Gabriel says, “We were a nation built upon theft, white supremacy, and idolatry, so our unwillingness to wrestle with our history keeps us repeating the same mistakes since we do not address our foundations never being made about seeing all ethnic groups as equal. It is connected to the history of things like ‘The Doctrine of Discovery,’ which other religious groups brought over to the Americas long before the Puritans, and it has also manifested itself in regards to other parts of history. We have multiple groups still feeling the impact of colonialism and eradication of their culture, like the American Indians, and to address what we have done would go against the myth of our culture being about U.S. exceptionalism and being a nation never for harm in the ways that we say other nations are.”
These responses show two sides on how to resolve this issue:
- In order for us to heal, we must press forward, not backwards, and not cause more divisions that are drummed up by the fringes of our society.
- In order to heal, we must face our past, expose the wrongs done by the people before us, and make tangible steps to right those wrongs.
How do we reconcile our different visions on this to reach a middle ground that unites us all?
As Confederate monuments throughout the country have and are beginning to come down and are moved to a museum or in a holding place until the cities’ authorities decide what to do with them, new Confederate monuments are rising up in Georgia and Alabama.
In Georgia, resident John Culpepper, founder of the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, unveiled a statue back in 2007 of a Confederate soldier that sits in the Chickamauga battlefield. He plans to continue preserving these and other such memorabilia that he believes are part of his heritage. He is upset with both the KKK and those people calling for the ejection of monuments across America that have vandalized them. He believes both groups have and are doing damage to his Southern heritage (Grinberg).
In Crenshaw County, Alabama, a new monument has been erected and placed in the Confederate Veterans Memorial Park that owner David Coggins says is for remembering those who fought and lost their lives in the Civil War. He believes all of our forefathers should be remembered, including the Southern ones (WVTM 13).
In my previous blog, I wrote my opinions rather generally on the removal of these monuments. To clarify what I said in support of the removal of the monuments, I meant ones proven to be produced by white supremacists, and I don’t think Confederate monuments belong at state government buildings. It is my belief that Confederate monuments in military parks/battlefields, cemeteries, and, of course, museums belong there.
Incidentally, I do wonder why statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are/were in New York’s Bronx Community College’s Hall of Fame for Great Americans. Why would a Northern state have statues of Generals Lee and Jackson, and especially in one of their community college’s “Hall of Fame for Great Americans” (Suerth)? I did extensive studying of the Civil War in my late teens and early to mid twenties, and from what I read at that time, Lee in particular garnered the respect of both Northern and Southern officers during the war. However, I don’t think this acknowledgement spread to the Northern civilians. In any case, the men that established the Hall of Fame for Great Americans at Bronx Community College included Lee (and later Jackson) in their choices of great Americans, along with Franklin and Lincoln. Maybe it was out of an effort for reconciliation in the beginning, as there was pressure years later from groups like the United Daughters of the Confederacy to add Jackson. Nevertheless, The busts of both Lee and Jackson are being removed from the community college’s Hall of Fame. Furthermore, it’s interesting to note that statues of General Lee and seven other well-known men from the Confederacy are present in the U.S. Capitol. What will be done with those statues?
Perhaps the collaborative efforts of local cities’ citizenry and museums will bring about a fair outcome to this contentious issue. There’s always hope for a better and brighter tomorrow.
Ginberg, Emanuella. “New Confederate monuments are going up and these are the people behind them.” CNN.com, 23 August 2017. http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/18/us/new-confederate-monuments/index.html
Bowery Boys. “Robert E. Lee in the Hall of Fame? There were concerns even back in 1900.” Boweryboyshistory.com, 17 August 2017. http://www.boweryboyshistory.com/2017/08/robert-e-lee-hall-fame-concerns-even-back-1900.html
Ford, Matt. “The Statues of Unliberty.” The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/confederate-statues-congress/536760/
**The original article from NBC News on the statues in the U.S. Capitol has been taken down.
Suerth, Jessica. “Here are the Confederate memorials that will be removed after Charlottesville.” CNN.com, 23 August 2017. http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/15/us/confederate-memorial-removal-us-trnd/index.html
WVTM 13. “New Confederate monuments going up in Crenshaw County, Alabama.” WVTM13.com, 23 August 2017. http://www.wvtm13.com/article/new-confederate-monument-going-up-in-crenshaw-county-alabama/12065990
All interviews were conducted via PM and/or email August 19-23, 2017.