Recently at a dinner party I attended there was a civilized debate about the famous monuments around the country glorifying the Confederacy and its leaders. A few people expressed concerned that moving monuments is rewriting history and a case of political correctness gone wild.
The truth is that we are rewriting history and replacing it with an honest look at the trials and tribulations of our young republic. Because of segregation and racism over the years, American history has literally been ‘white-washed’. America is a great and good nation but a nation that must honestly confront its past in order to build for the future.
Monuments occupy places of honor in our local communities. They are placed in our town squares to inspire future generations and to share stories of individual excellence and courage.
The President claims he likes facts. Mr. President, the facts are clear. Military leaders and political leaders who supported the Confederacy were people who committed treason against the United States of America. They committed that treachery to continue the deadly and torturous practice of slavery. Their sedition led to a civil war in America that killed over 600,000 of our citizens. In today’s numbers that would be close to six million killed.
Monuments extolling the virtues of General Lee, Stonewall Jackson and others have no place in our town squares. These so-called heroes betrayed our country to defend a policy of human bondage that resulted in the death of over two million in the North Atlantic slave trade. You can’t sanitize their subversion and the reasons for it.
Can you imagine walking in Berlin and seeing a statue of Hitler in the center of the city since he was a key part of German history?
As a member of the LGBTQ community I don’t want to be confronted by a monument of Senator Jessie Helms of North Carolina. The former senator was one of the main architects of the policy that led to the deaths of thousands upon thousands of gay men from AIDS.
American history is not easy for any of us. It is filled with pain, failed policies, genocide and outrages. Ignoring our more painful moments will ensure we will only repeat them. Our difficult history must be shared so that we can indeed move forward as a nation to that more perfect union as a united people.
The monuments should be built for Americans like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Congressman John Lewis, Cesar Chavez, Harvey Milk, Edie Windsor and so many others who have inspired this nation with their courage and principles.
As Maya Angelou wrote: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if we face it with courage, need not be lived again.”