Old South vs. New America: What Confederate Monuments Say About Us
The 20e anniversary of September 11 challenges us to consider what our country stands for, what it should represent, and for whom it should represent.
The central idea of Confederate monuments is that the pre-war south is still present. It remains – and will always remain – anchored in the fabric of American consciousness.
The problem, of course, is that one cannot separate – historically, sociologically or emotionally – respect for the Old South to torture human beings. To buy them and sell them. To separate children from parents and wives from husbands. To capture them. For murdering them.
That’s not to say that other Americans don’t support slavery, or even don’t own slaves. But to my knowledge, there are no Confederate monuments honoring the Vermont secessionists. Confederate monuments were dedicated to promoting a Southern supremacist heritage, aimed at intimidating and threatening those who stood in the way. And not only “standing”, but also “standing”, because they continue to offend and dishonor those whose ancestors died so that these confederates can live forever in public places.
The removal last week of a Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, Va. Met with the usual backlash. Former president Donald trumpDonald Trump Biden opposes Newsom on eve of recall: “Nation’s eyes are on California” On The Money: House Democrats cut tax hikes Biden Abortion providers warn the “chaos” if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade MORE – who according to the Republican National Committee “still leads” the GOP – was quick to name Lee a national hero while lamenting – wrongly – that “with the exception of Gettysburg, [he] would have won the [Civil] War. ”Trump also strangely insisted that Lee would have postponed America’s“ total victory ”in Afghanistan.
Hyperbole and questionable intent aside, the idolatry of Lee and those he led in the fight against the United States raises questions his perennial supporters will not – or be able to – answer: How many centuries are enough? to honor the men who killed hundreds of thousands of Americans? And by extension, for what purpose do we obey monumental decisions made generations ago?
At the end of the 19e and early 20e centuries – the years when many of these monuments were erected – doctors have generally recommended soothing teething babies with licorice-flavored morphine syrup. Why don’t American medical textbooks continue to promote morphine syrup? Because of scientific progress. The previous “experts” who pushed this product into homes do not deserve public recognition. They don’t deserve pedestals. In other words, we should have known better at the time. We did not do it. Now we are doing it. And the medical writings and the attitudes of parents have evolved accordingly.
And the notion of “evolution” is critical. We can remember the mistakes of the past without bringing them to the face of people. Likewise, can we also remember the horrors of the past without venerating the perpetrators.
Slavery was the original sin of our country. Showing monuments to those who killed and died to perpetuate slavery is a contemporary sin. A majority of Americans agree and want the monuments to disappear. The other side inexplicably believes their removal will somehow desecrate America.
By guarding these Confederate monuments, we are taking orders from avowed fanatics of the past, who were desperate to revive the lost cause. Over 1,000 remaining statues represent the triumph of these fanatics over modern America, which is supposedly (but far from) “post-racial.”
Each day these structures dominate us, we, a supposedly evolved nation yearning for goodness and greatness, striving to break free from a history steeped in dehumanization, unconditionally surrender to a deeply racist philosophy.
If we really are a better country than we were 50, 100, and 150 years ago, then it’s high time we grew up and acted like this.
BJ Rudell is a longtime political strategist, former associate director of the Center for Politics at Duke University, and recent member of the North Carolina Democratic Party. In a career spanning stays on Capitol Hill, presidential campaigns, in a newsroom, in classrooms and for a consultancy firm, he has authored three books and has shared political ideas on all of them. media platforms, including for CNN and Fox News.