Should They Stay or Should They Go?
The events of this past week in America have been like nothing I've ever seen. The violence that broke out in Charlottesville, where one life was taken, and the proceeding violent rhetoric online has amazed me. Originally, like most political topics, I kept my thoughts to myself. After a few people asked about my thoughts, and some experiences that I've had this week, I've decided to speak more openly about my thoughts.
Growing up in the South, friends of mine in grade school and I were proud to be Southerners. We looked at Robert E. Lee and those guys and we thought they were pretty cool dudes. As I've grown up and studied more and more about the war, I feel it's a complex subject that has come to mainly be a symbol as a war for slavery when there are more causes than just slavery, but slavery was definitely one of the main roots of it and that's where our focus is regarding the Civil War, and with good reason.
I love history and I've always heard rumblings about the Confederate Flag being on some state flags and Confederate Monuments and being from the South, you always hear Southern Pride or Southern Heritage as why they are ok. I've felt that these monuments are a part of our history and we can't sweep history under the rug. We have to learn from it, otherwise history has a way of repeating itself.
Even after Charlottesville, which kind of shook me and made me step back and really start trying to figure out how I felt about what happened and what's going on in our country, my position on monuments was still that they are a part of our history.
On Tuesday morning, I was driving to my studio and I was pretty hungry. I decided to grab a quick doughnut before I got there. In front of me in line was an older black gentleman. He got his doughnut and a coffee and went and sat down in front of the tv. I sat a few tables over and glanced up at the screen. It was Fox News, and they were talking about the violence in Charlottesville and how the politicians are to blame for the violence because they wanted to take down a Confederate statue. They were adamant about how it's history and it needs to be remembered and were getting pretty loud about it. I glanced at the man and he started gathering up his doughnut and coffee and slowly got up, then shuffled to the far side of the room and sat down as far away as he possibly could. He was quiet, and just that act of getting up to get away from that conversation on the television really shook me.
As a white man, I will never know what it's been like or what it is like in that man's shoes. I will never be able to relate. But I saw the hurt on his face and the act that he couldn't listen to it anymore. He could have gotten up and caused a scene to get the tv turned off or at least to another channel. He didn't. He respectfully just removed himself from that situation and that has impacted my life in a way I didn't really think was possible.
As a human being, my view is that I have respect for others and that I don't wish to cause anyone that kind of hurt. The fact is that stone and bronze is just that, stone and bronze, and there's no way that they are more important than another living, breathing, human being. They just aren't. History is history and it definitely has its place, but its place is in places of learning.
In the later part of this week, the debate over Confederate Monuments has reached a fervor, and there's some dramatic takes on both sides. One of the things I've seen a lot of is people saying that the monuments are hundreds of years old. I've been looking into it and most monuments were built in a couple of different time periods in the South. There was a period in the early 20th Century where an uprise in monuments coincided with Jim Crow laws and the rise of the KKK here in the South, and another upturn in building them was during the Civil Rights era in the 60's. These aren't monuments that have been around since the Civil War.
In looking at the history of other countries, I know of none that have erected monuments and statues honoring people that led uprisings against their countries. Even men that were good men, such as Robert E. Lee, who opposed slavery but fought for Virginia because state loyalty during that time period was more important than country loyalty, spoke out many times against Confederate monuments because it would impede the growth of our Country in the healing process.
This week I have heard that these monuments are needed as a reminder, but these monuments aren't a symbol to many Southerners of the tragedies of the war and the issues that caused it. Growing up in the South, these statues more so are a reminder of a simpler time that many long for. "The South will rise again" is a slogan that is heard all over the South from the time that we are kids.
Here's where my view kind of differs on some. My feelings are that not ALL these monuments need to be removed. We do need to remember what happened and we need the lessons that can be taught by it. Many of the forts and battlefields have been preserved and they show monuments of BOTH sides and there are museums that truly teach about this important part of American history. The way that the war was fought AND the way America went about reconstruction is still being felt even now in the current events that are unfolding. Maybe it needs to be taught more so we have a better understanding about it.
I do think the best course of action is to remove ALL the monuments and namesakes from non-historical sites and this should be an official act by our States. We should never be shoving memorials in the face of many of our population where it causes pain. These monuments have absolutely no place in our cities and in front of government buildings. No, we personally didn't have anything to do with slavery, but we do have a responsibility to our fellow man that treat them the way we would wish to be treated.
This isn't even just a black/white issue. We honor men like Christopher Columbus in America for "discovering the new world." We have statues of him across our country and this man was absolutely BRUTAL to Native Americans. There were Union Generals that are honored, who went on to fight in the "Indian Wars" who slaughtered many innocent men, women, and children. No, our Country truly needs to re-evaluate itself with an open mind. It's time that all walks of life stop allowing ourselves to be divided and come together and make this Country what we have pretended it to be...Great.