“I think it wiser not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”
Virginia put up a statue of a Confederate commander in 1890, just after the Civil War and preluding years of Jim Crow and Civil Rights opposition. After many recent protests, the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond is removed. I’m happy to hear this. Here are 5 reasons why:
Robert E. Lee was opposed to Civil War monuments
The retired general, when asked about erecting a Gettysburg memorial, preferred that we not place markers of our wars, but put them away. We’re putting away the statue of the war he lost.
In the end, Lee swore allegiance to the United States, not the south.
In that regard, the statue has long been an insult to Lee’s memory. And a lie.
Lee fought for the wrong thing, and put that thing away
True story. Once he lost, Lee openly gave up the cause of Southern separatism. Spoke openly against it. A statue of him riding a war horse communicates too mixed a message regarding military opposition to America.
We’re not putting the memory of Lee away. We’re putting the pedestal away. If you want to learn more about Lee, well, a single statue didn’t tell you much. But he’s all over countless books and documentaries. I’ve not heard one person call for those to stop production.
Said Ralph Northram, “We have to confront where we’ve been in order to shape where we’re going.” And like Lee, Northram has something in his past involving race that he decided to course-correct.
Statues don’t tell history—they venerate figures in history
This is easy to prove. Tell me something: Which of these are you more familiar with? The statue? Or Lee’s words about statues. If you said the statue, you just proved that you don’t know history because you care more about statues than words. Primary sources are where we learn about history. Not idols crafted long after that history was written.
Virginia isn’t burning the documents kept in museums and other institutions across the state. They’re not burning the textbooks, accurate or inaccurate, that tell us about the war. They’re not burning the museums. Those actions are how you erase history. Virginia is removing another statue made for a specific purpose, in hopes to decontextualize it.
Losing the statue is worth what we gain
Look at the country right now. Three years ago a “Unite the Right” rally around the statue ended in violence. Here we are in 2020. The statue lasted 3 more years. Why? A bad law that protects all statues of veterans, even if they fought against the United States for slave owner rights.
Honestly, if it helps stop rioting, if it helps strike fear in the KKK and other hate groups, if it inspires us to hold police and governing officials accountable, if it helps hundreds or thousands of black people feel more at ease in their own country—if it does any of these things, it is worth it.
It’s best for the South
Robert E. Lee swore allegiance to the Union after his defeat. Not the “Lost Cause.” It’s hard for people to find unity when they still look upon a symbol of disunity. No more upheaval means no more symbols of unnecessary upheaval or celebration of that upheaval. Lee is dead. We’re not killing him. We’re resurrecting something bigger than a dead man’s one-time mistake. The south needs to be united with the north, though they will always have different cultures with diverse people.
The statue is going down peacefully. Keep that in mind.
In conclusion, here is my proposal is that we replace the statue with the following plaque:
“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.”