August 23, 2017

JUST RACE:

Why Lee Should Go, and Washington Should Stay (JON MEACHAM, AUG. 21, 2017, NY Times)

To me, the answer to Mr. Trump's question begins with a straightforward test: Was the person to whom a monument is erected on public property devoted to the American experiment in liberty and self-government? Washington and Jefferson and Andrew Jackson were. Each owned slaves; each was largely a creature of his time and place on matters of race. Yet each also believed in the transcendent significance of the nation, and each was committed to the journey toward "a more perfect Union."

By definition, the Confederate hierarchy fails that test. Those who took up arms against the Union were explicitly attempting to stop the American odyssey. While we should judge each individual on the totality of their lives (defenders of Lee, for instance, point to his attempts to be a figure of reconciliation after the war), the forces of hate and of exclusion long ago made Confederate imagery their own. Monuments in public places of veneration to those who believed it their duty to fight the Union have no place in the Union of the 21st century -- a view with which Lee himself might have agreed. "I think it wiser," he wrote in 1866, "not to keep open the sores of war."

Of course, Lee lost that struggle, too, and my home state is dealing with just this issue at the moment. In 1973, the Sons of Confederate Veterans raised money to install a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Southern cavalry commander and early leader of the Klan, in the state capitol.

Posted by at August 23, 2017 9:01 AM

  

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