When I originally published this posting in 2017 I wrote, “Foolish me……I’m going to weigh in and say yes, Confederate monuments should be moved from places of honor in our public forums and moved somewhere they can be given a context and studied for what they were and why they were erected in the first place. ” Foolish me……..when I originally wrote that tepid statement I was thinking of myself, of what grief I would get from people I knew would not be in agreement with me. I was sweating bullets as I hit publish.
In the past two weeks in our country, fellow citizens expressing their First Amendment Rights have been met with rubber bullets and teargas, as our President who has done nothing but try to divide this nation, threaten to send in the troops to American cities to put down the protestors and urged State Governors to dominate the protestors.
In the past two weeks I have seen video of protestors tear down Confederate monuments and it reminded me of when protestors in Ukraine were tearing down statues of Lenin.
“While General Lee was alive, Lee stressed his belief that the country should move past the war. He swore allegiance to the Union and publicly decried southern separatism, whether militant or symbolic.
“It’s often forgotten that Lee himself, after the Civil War, opposed monuments, specifically Confederate war monuments,” said Jonathan Horn, the author of the Lee biography, “The Man Who Would Not Be Washington.”
In his writings, Lee cited multiple reasons for opposing such monuments, questioning the cost of a potential Stonewall Jackson monument, for example. But underlying it all was one rationale: That the war had ended, and the South needed to move on and avoid more upheaval.
“As regards the erection of such a monument as is contemplated,” Lee wrote of an 1866 proposal, “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.”
The retired Confederate leader, a West Point graduate, was influenced by his knowledge of history.
“Lee believed countries that erased visible signs of civil war recovered from conflicts quicker,” Horn said. “He was worried that by keeping these symbols alive, it would keep the divisions alive.”
PBS News Hour, August 15, 2017
Yesterday NASCAR made this statement:
“The presence of the confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry. Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.”
We need to recognize how the Confederate monuments and flag were used to further the false narrative that our southern kinsmen died for a noble cause and the subtext that African-Americans need to be shown their place.
Is history being rewritten…..yes it is and should be. History is not a static thing. Historians studying our past become more informed as more information is revealed and uncovered or because the lens of our perceptions have become more enlightened and evolved.
I was born in 1957 and raised in Dallas, Texas. When I was a young boy, my friends and I enjoyed playing soldier like so many little boys do. Funny thing though, we weren’t playing U.S. soldier verses the Viet Cong or U.S. soldiers verses Germans or Japanese. Our brand of playing soldier was peculiar to the South I believe. We played Rebs and Yankees.
In our little impressionable minds the Rebs were always the winners and the Yankees were the losers. In my group of friends, you would only volunteer to play a Yankee, if you got to be a Reb the next time we played soldier. And in the minds of so many adults of my childhood, the South lost a “Noble Cause” to the North who were still viewed as the aggressors. That was the White Southern Narrative…….a narrative both dangerous and wrong.
As I got older that narrative didn’t change much and was even promoted as truthful history in public school. There was even the false narrative that it was a battle about state rights and the overreaching of the national government……as if state rights somehow trumped the sins of slavery.
Never in my early education was I exposed to the document below. Each state that seceded from the Union, reads pretty much the same. The Civil War was fought about Slavery plain and simple.
A Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union.
The government of the United States, by certain joint resolutions, bearing date the 1st day of March, in the year A.D. 1845, proposed to the Republic of Texas, then *a free, sovereign and independent nation, the annexation of the latter to the former, as one of the co-equal states thereof,
The people of Texas, by deputies in convention assembled, on the fourth day of July of the same year, assented to and accepted said proposals and formed a constitution for the proposed State, upon which on the 29th day of December in the same year, said State was formally admitted into the Confederated Union.
Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery– the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits– a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?
The controlling majority of the Federal Government, under various pretenses and disguises, has so administered the same as to exclude the citizens of the Southern States, unless under odious and unconstitutional restrictions, from all the immense territory owned in common by all the States on the Pacific Ocean, for the avowed purpose of acquiring sufficient power in the common government to use it as a means of destroying the institutions of Texas and her sister slave holding States.
By the disloyalty of the Northern States and their citizens and the imbecility of the Federal Government, infamous combinations of incendiaries and outlaws have been permitted in those States and the common territory of Kansas to trample upon the federal laws, to war upon the lives and property of Southern citizens in that territory, and finally, by violence and mob law, to usurp the possession of the same as exclusively the property of the Northern States.
The Federal Government, while but partially under the control of these our unnatural and sectional enemies, has for years almost entirely failed to protect the lives and property of the people of Texas against the Indian savages on our border, and more recently against the murderous forays of bandits from the neighboring territory of Mexico; and when our State government has expended large amounts for such purpose, the Federal Government has refuse reimbursement therefor, thus rendering our condition more insecure and harassing than it was during the existence of the Republic of Texas.
These and other wrongs we have patiently borne in the vain hope that a returning sense of justice and humanity would induce a different course of administration.
When we advert to the course of individual non-slave-holding States, and that a majority of their citizens, our grievances assume far greater magnitude.
The States of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, by solemn legislative enactments, have deliberately, directly or indirectly violated the 3rd clause of the 2nd section of the 4th article [the fugitive slave clause] of the federal constitution, and laws passed in pursuance thereof; thereby annulling a material provision of the compact, designed by its framers to perpetuate the amity between the members of the confederacy and to secure the rights of the slave-holding States in their domestic institutions– a provision founded in justice and wisdom, and without the enforcement of which the compact fails to accomplish the object of its creation. Some of those States have imposed high fines and degrading penalties upon any of their citizens or officers who may carry out in good faith that provision of the compact, or the federal laws enacted in accordance therewith.
In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color– a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States.
For years past this abolition organization has been actively sowing the seeds of discord through the Union, and has rendered the federal congress the arena for spreading firebrands and hatred between the slave-holding and non-slave-holding States.
By consolidating their strength, they have placed the slave-holding States in a hopeless minority in the federal congress, and rendered representation of no avail in protecting Southern rights against their exactions and encroachments. They have proclaimed, and at the ballot box sustained, the revolutionary doctrine that there is a ‘higher law’ than the constitution and laws of our Federal Union, and virtually that they will disregard their oaths and trample upon our rights.
They have for years past encouraged and sustained lawless organizations to steal our slaves and prevent their recapture, and have repeatedly murdered Southern citizens while lawfully seeking their rendition.
They have invaded Southern soil and murdered unoffending citizens, and through the press their leading men and a fanatical pulpit have bestowed praise upon the actors and assassins in these crimes, while the governors of several of their States have refused to deliver parties implicated and indicted for participation in such offenses, upon the legal demands of the States aggrieved.
They have, through the mails and hired emissaries, sent seditious pamphlets and papers among us to stir up servile insurrection and bring blood and carnage to our firesides.
They have sent hired emissaries among us to burn our towns and distribute arms and poison to our slaves for the same purpose.
They have impoverished the slave-holding States by unequal and partial legislation, thereby enriching themselves by draining our substance.
They have refused to vote appropriations for protecting Texas against ruthless savages, for the sole reason that she is a slave-holding State.
And, finally, by the combined sectional vote of the seventeen non-slave-holding States, they have elected as president and vice-president of the whole confederacy two men whose chief claims to such high positions are their approval of these long continued wrongs, and their pledges to continue them to the final consummation of these schemes for the ruin of the slave-holding States.
In view of these and many other facts, it is meet that our own views should be distinctly proclaimed.
We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.
That in this free government *all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights* [emphasis in the original]; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states.
By the secession of six of the slave-holding States, and the certainty that others will speedily do likewise, Texas has no alternative but to remain in an isolated connection with the North, or unite her destinies with the South.
For these and other reasons, solemnly asserting that the federal constitution has been violated and virtually abrogated by the several States named, seeing that the federal government is now passing under the control of our enemies to be diverted from the exalted objects of its creation to those of oppression and wrong, and realizing that our own State can no longer look for protection, but to God and her own sons– We the delegates of the people of Texas, in Convention assembled, have passed an ordinance dissolving all political connection with the government of the United States of America and the people thereof and confidently appeal to the intelligence and patriotism of the freemen of Texas to ratify the same at the ballot box, on the 23rd day of the present month.
Adopted in Convention on the 2nd day of February, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one and of the independence of Texas the twenty-fifth.
For a slave owner who has made their livelihood off the sweat, blood and lives of his slaves, this was reason enough to go to war with his fellow United States citizens. In the southern narrative it was the North who were traitors when in reality it was the treason committed by the Southern “Heroes” who have memorials built in their name in town squares and parks across the south, along with major streets, schools and army bases bearing their names.
I am not talking about the hapless foot soldier conscripted into war but the wealthy white landowners, generals and leaders of the Confederacy who through their greed for wealth, power and delusions that the “white race” was somehow superior, decided to tear our country in two all so they could continue hold back the promise of our “Imperfect Union” that all men are created equal.
When someone says I’m endorsing erasing “our” history; nothing could be further from the truth. In reality I am acknowledging our history.
As great as our Nation is, and how many wonderful things it has brought forth, our country has had too many dark chapters and broken promises starting with those who came to this country and what they did to the indigenous people who were already living here, to the people who were ripped from their homelands and forcibly brought to this country as slaves.
I don’t know if I had any relatives in my family tree that bought and owned slaves….but I did have relatives who fought and died while serving in the Confederacy and quite truthfully I feel no particular pride in that, but it is a part of my history.
Old habits, ideologies and ignorance die hard.
On a side note, I was raised in a very liberal home by parents who grew up in the segregated south. When I was in my teens I dated a lovely African-American woman. I remember my father bristling when I brought her home. It was like a scene out of “Guess who’s coming to dinner.” Later I questioned my father about it saying with everything they taught me growing up, I didn’t understand his reaction to my dating this wonderful young lady.
Much to my father’s credit he said, “it’s not you, it’s not her….it’s me and I’m ashamed of how I reacted. Son you got to understand that growing up in the segregated south we were taught that there are white people and then there are niggers and spicks”……..two words that were not a part of our family vocabulary. Matter of fact it was shocking when I heard these words come out of my father’s mouth.
He said intellectually he knew that his reaction was pure ignorance and he fought it tooth and nailed by getting an education……but the prejudice which permeated his childhood upbringing would occasionally bubble up through him and for that he was ashamed.
So yes it is time to tear down these Confederate old statues and memorials. It is time to change the names of schools and army bases that bear the names of Confederate generals.
It is time for our country to tend to the open wound of our past so the hope of the future can hopefully heal us as a nation. There are noble people and ideas that we can memorialize that could serve us better as a nation.
It wasn’t just the killing of George Floyd by a policeman that unleashed the unrest and people marching in the streets of cities big and small all across the United States, but the hundreds of years of systemic racism that has ingrained itself into our country’s history and daily lives still today.
Sometimes artist and poets can summon up the courage to say things that need to be said, In 1951, Langston Hughes published his poem “A dream deferred”
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
No truer words have been written by a poet
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