It could be that America has never truly cared about its slaves, except for how bad those slaves made America look. That’s why we can have this debate about monuments to Confederate generals, (when there should be no need for debate, at all).
America has consistently sought to portray the antebellum South in romantic terms – with its genteel aristocracy, southern belles… oh, and “soft laughter from the negro quarters.” It was all a veneer – an affectatious delicacy beneath which rolled the total dehumanization of an entire race of people. We know this. Yet, we, enlightened people, succumb over and over to the romance that gives high priority to the imagination, and little to reason. How else to explain a nation that will revile the infamous Revolutionary, Benedict Arnold, yet revere his traitorous Confederate cousins?
There are over 700 Confederate monuments, most of which are dispersed throughout the former Confederate states. These are not monuments to heroism, as most Confederate sympathizers would have us believe. They are the face of America’s crime against humanity.
For the Neo-Nazi, the White Supremacist, the KKK, the Confederacy is a shield. It is the symbol of their America – defiant white men standing up to a federal government that dare be inclusive at their expense; that dare put blacks and Jews on a plane meant to be the sole inheritance of white people.
The other night, on Fox News, Dr. Charles Krauthammer lauded a monument to Confederate soldiers for their valor against overwhelming odds. But, did those soldiers fight any more valiantly that did Hitler’s Wehrmacht, who were outnumbered by the Allies 5-to-1, and still nearly won the day?
The Nazi cause was no less ignoble than the Confederate cause. Yet, there are no monuments to Erwin Rommel, Heinz Guderian, or Eric von Manstein, arguably three of the greatest military generals that ever lived. Why is that? Because no one is allowed – and rightfully so – to romanticize what the Nazis did to the Jewish people. Yet, it is okay to romanticize a Confederacy that propagated evils against an innocent race of people America is yet to admit to: unspeakable acts beneath that veneer of Southern gentility – rampant pedophilia – visited upon chained black children; crimes chained mothers and fathers could not protect against. Erect a Confederate monument to that!
History exists. It cannot be changed, nor erased. Memory, on the other hand, can be formed and re-formed. Robert E Lee, as the military arm of the Confederacy, sought to defeat the United States of America so that slavery could survive and, ideally, spread. That is historical fact. Today, many American’s, nonetheless, memorialize Lee – call him “America’s most beloved general”; (even more “beloved” than Ulysses S. Grant, the Union general who defeated Lee and literally saved this country!) Reconcile that.
Now, people across this nation – many young people who have already cast off their fathers’ prejudices – tear at these Confederate statues with their bare hands, as though they instinctively know it is their future they fight for; as though they know in their gut that for the future to be realized, all of the colors of America must be fully enfranchised. That can only happen absent the Confederate shadow that looms over this nation – a presence that has been elevated to honor when all it deserves is infamy.
Take down the Confederate monuments, now. Put them in museums. Then, let us all visit those museums, and show our children the truth of this nation – how it once condoned evil, and then fought mightily to vanquish it. Put the Confederacy behind shatterproof glass, and pray that the hate it represents never rises again.