Today, the idea that a person can be both condemned for their corruption as well as praised for their heroism seems to be regarded as mutually exclusive. All across our nation, memorials and statues of Confederate soldiers are being protested, covered and destroyed, often violently. The rationale behind this movement is that removing monuments to figures who did things we see as reprehensible is a way to eradicate the commendation of white supremacy and slavery. This is a noble cause. It is my position, howerver, that the method currently underway is illogical and will do more harm to the Civil Rights movement in the future.
To clarify their purpose, let’s take a look at the context in which the Confederate statues were erected. Most statues were built between 1900-1920s. Just prior to and during this time period, two major events happened in United States history: the Spanish-American War and the beginning of Jim Crow laws. Both contributed to the construction of Civil War memorials in different ways. Many monuments were constructed to honor veterans of both wars and promote unity between the North and South; others were constructed to re-ignite once-buried white supremacy. Other well-documented reasons exist, such as to mark anniversaries, provide places for widows of missing soldiers to grieve and preserve history as the Civil War generation died out.
Looking at the context in which the memorials were made reveals that there was no singular motivation for building them. To purport that the only purpose of the memorials was to promote white supremacy is historically inaccurate. To advocate for the removal of these memorials on that basis does more to destroy history than to learn from it.
Racism is a repulsive growth of immorality. Evil, the foundational monster here, touches all lives, regardless of their status as heroic or villainous. The rationale behind removing Confederate memorials for glorifying racist ideology logically allows the same demagoguery to remove statues of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and slave owner; Theodore Roosevelt, hero for his progressivism and proponent of mass eugenics; and Martin Luther, pioneer of the Protestant Reformation and raging anti-semite. This slippery slope of criticism legitimizes the universal negative characterization of anyone, despite their positive additions to history. It also hands the reins to moral relativists, who may pick and choose any belief to exacerbate and crucify at any given moment.
Consider this issue contextually. Consider that these Confederate soldiers are remembered for American ideals such as valor, honor and bravery. Consider that the memorials were meant to unite the United States in a difficult time, to provide grieving steps and to extend forgiveness.
Finally, consider that a memorial is not an altar, and it is not right to make decisions based on the worst of our society. Rather, it is our job to be educated, and to recognize and accept our history as it is without bias. We must rebuke those who attempt to use it for their own malicious agendas and remind them that history is to be remembered, not hijacked. We must promote valor and honor and condemn immorality. To destroy monuments that represent both accomplishes neither and rationalizes misrepresentation in a society that will only thrive on a foundation of truth, justice and remembrance. I want to leave you with a revolutionary thought: I don’t want you to agree with me.
I want you to go out and research the facts for yourself in order to come to a personal conclusion. The reason why these complex issues often devolve into violence and extremism is because of a lack of thorough, researched belief. We latch onto anything that fits our conditioned worldview, creating a mob mentality that does not value honor or civil discourse.
So, I implore you to think critically. Learn from each other. Learn from history. Find your own voice and use your knowledge of the past to protect the future. I wrote this article because I had something to say. Hopefully, if nothing else, it will inspire you to find what you want to say, too.
This article is a part of an opposing view point, you can find the other side here.