There's a difference between a monument and a memorial


I am one of those 70 million Americans descended from Confederate soldiers. Unlike Mr. R.T. Hines, who wrote that the old monuments that embellish a brutal history that enslaved 19 percent of our fellow Americans at one time should be honored, I disagree. I am more inclined to agree with the views written by Carla Damron in the Aug. 20 issue of The Sumter Item. Never assume that all Southerners are blinded by the fabrications of history. While Robert E. Lee was a brilliant tactical military strategist, well loved by his men, he was a harsh slave owner made richer from their labor. (The Making and the Breaking of the Legion of Robert E. Lee, by Eric Foner.) Therein lie the complexities of understanding the individual contradictions in us all and determining what to celebrate, what to honor and what to condemn.

Lee himself thought it wiser not to erect any monuments following the war. "I think it wiser," the retired military leader wrote about a proposed Gettysburg memorial in 1869, " not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered." It is a fact that the majority of Civil War monuments in this country were erected during the Jim Crow and Civil Rights Era, mostly to poke a finger in the eye of the courts ordering integration. And, perhaps in more ways than admitted, to prove to the black population who was still running the town.

"We erect monuments so that we shall always remember, and build memorials so that we shall never forget," writes Arthur Danto.

In regards to the Civil War monuments, "people thought they were honoring heroes. They celebrated at the statues' unveiling, congratulating themselves on resisting Reconstruction's drive for equality, for enforcing school and neighborhood segregation and denying votes and civil rights to African-Americans." Is this what we want our Civil War monuments to represent? Have we not made more progress than that?

Personally, I think every town and county has the right to choose in a manner that fairly represents everyone in that locale as what is best for them. The Charlottesville City Council made their choice. Who are we, or the KKK or the Alt-right or anyone else to tell them differently? It’s their town, their choice and obviously over the years they’d decided to make a more inclusive statement on their public square. I applaud them despite the fact that I deeply regret that protesters deemed it appropriate to arrive heavily armed in combat dress waving Nazi flags. Why would any Southerner want to fly the Confederate flag alongside that? It was a low point in our claim to honor our dead.