Wednesday, August 16, 2017

more thoughts on Confederate monuments

Nearly three months ago I commented on the removal of the monuments in New Orleans and the growing controversy in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Since then things have gotten worse on a human scale in Charlottesville.  Truly horrible the violence that happened there.  

In the immediate aftermath there a monument was torn down in Durham, North Carolina.  This was outright destruction of public property.  I fear if that case ever goes to trial the perpetrators will not be punished as the jury of their peers will decide that while it was against the law it was not a law worth observing.  

As I said last time if removing monuments made all the racial acrimony go away then it would be a task worth undertaking, with proper relocation for historical purposes.  But are the racial problems solved today in Durham, Charlottesville, or anywhere else that Confederate monuments exist?

Last night Baltimore took the step of removing its 4 "Confederate monuments."  One story I read said that the mayor is looking for alternate locations for the monuments such as cemeteries and one would assume museums and historic homes.  I'm glad to hear that.  These monuments have a historical significance themselves, many times being done by famous artists of the day, besides the historical period being represented.  Although I'm not happy that monuments are removed if they end up intact near historical places then it seems like this can still be a win-win for the people involved.

What I do find troubling is the list of "Confederate" monuments.  They are:

  • Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument
  • Confederate Women’s Monument
  • Robert E. Lee and Thomas. J. “Stonewall” Jackson Monument
  • Roger B. Taney Monument

Pretty standard stuff, women, soldiers and Lee-Jackson.  But Taney was not a Confederate.  He never left his post on the Supreme Court.  Clearly he sympathized with the Confederacy as can be seen in his court decisions, Dred Scott and Merryman in particular.  This sort of thinking by the mayor calls into question  all sorts of monuments.  Name any Southern born leader of this country and think if his monument is safe.  Even the Lincoln Monument was vandalized around the time of the Durham incident.  Was it by someone with these motives or just a vandal?  If the President who led this country through a war to end slavery can have his monument attacked then there is no monument that is safe.  

How long until monuments at national battlefields are deemed to glorify the Confederacy.  Will we be debating in the media that monument A can stay because its just about troop positions but monument B has to be torn down because it glorifies the Confederacy?  This may seem like a big leap of logic but it feels like we're so close to that.  Will there be any Confederate monuments on battlefields in 50 years?  I'm not sure.  I'd say within the next 5-10 years the number of Confederate monuments on town squares will be a fraction of what it is today. 

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