Sorry For Ruining Your Visit

On Friday my wife and I headed up to Frederick, Maryland to catch a concert with Brad Mehldau and Joshua Redman.  This was my first visit to Frederick in a number of years and I have to say that I was blown away by the development in the downtown area.  We did a little walking before grabbing a bite to eat and then made our way to the beautiful Weinberg Center theatre.

From there we headed to D.C. for the rest of the weekend.  Yesterday was a beautiful day for a long walk so we decided to head on over to Arlington National Cemetery.  We walked through most of the cemetery, including the area that was operated by the Freedman’s Bureau.  You can find a large number of USCT’s, civilians, and former slaves buried in Section 29.  From there we walked up to the Lee-Custis mansion and then made our way to the Confederate Monument.

My wife has never seen that monument so I did a bit of interpretation for her.  I pointed out a number of features, including the decision to represent both Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri with the rest of the former Confederate states as well as the images of loyal slaves and what appears to be a black Confederate soldiers.  It’s a wonderful representation of the Lost Cause at the beginning of the twentieth-century.  In addition to the monument I mentioned President Woodrow Wilson’s participation in the dedication of the monument as well as his decision to segregate federal office buildings in the capital city at around that time.  My wife and I talked quite a bit about our thoughts about the monument, which is what we normally do when confronted with such structures.  Our instincts are to question and try to understand.

There was one other couple looking at the monument and although we did not exchange words I could tell that they were visibly upset with our comments.  Perhaps they thought that this was simply a monument to the soldiers buried in a ring around the monument.  If I had to guess they probably believed that what I was saying was disrespectful to their memory and service to the Confederacy.

Anyway, sorry for ruining your visit, but I do hope you learned something about the site.

16 comments… add one

  • James F. Epperson May 2, 2010

    Oh, come on! You just love stirring up this kind of trouble ;-)

    • Kevin Levin May 2, 2010

      To a certain extent I do. Honestly, I thought that the commentary might be welcome. How many people can talk about the origins of a monument as well as take a shot at offering some intelligent commentary. Let’s face it, most people don’t study and right about this stuff.

  • Larry Cebula May 2, 2010

    I just read this aloud to my wife, who is still unhappy with my behavior on our 2004 trip along the Lewis and Clark trail.

    • Kevin Levin May 2, 2010

      I guess it’s in our blood.

      • Larry Cebula May 2, 2010

        I thought that someone who spent a couple of grand to dress up like William Clark would *want* to know where his schtick was historically inaccurate. I thought that people who signed up for summer jobs at historic sites would welcome additional information and reading recommendations. I thought that people who traveled hundreds of miles and more to stare at a statue of Meriwether Lewis might be interested to learn about his conflicted sexuality. And for this I’m the bad guy?!

  • Robert Moore May 2, 2010

    It’s obvious that you ruined their “ambiance”… you know, the thing where one complicates another person’s moment of “historical feeling” with historical facts? :-)

    • Kevin Levin May 2, 2010

      I need to remember that for next time. Thanks Robert. :D

  • JB May 2, 2010

    Yeah–like your ‘memory’ is clearer 150 years after the fact than theirs were whilst many vets of the event were still living, Kev. LOL. Have ya the balls to post my comment? :)

    • Kevin Levin May 2, 2010

      JB,

      You are correct in pointing out that the veterans were still living in 1914, when this monument was dedicated, but that doesn’t tell us much of anything about the conditions that led to the burial of Confederates at Arlington or the decisions that went into the shape of the monument. I’m sorry that you feel so defensive about this post.

      Since you are unable to contribute much of anything that is worthwhile to these posts this will be the last comment posted on this blog. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Brooks Simpson May 3, 2010

      “Have ya the balls to post my comment? :)”

      Odd to see this from someone who lacks the courage to post under his own name.

  • David Woodbury May 2, 2010

    They could save everyone a lot of grief and controversy if they would simply post one of those signs that shows the word “Interpretation” in a red circle with a slash through it.

    David

  • EarthTone May 3, 2010

    One problem that I’ve noted elsewhere is that there are some people who equate criticism of the CSA as criticism of the “the South” and, by extension, a direct or indirect criticism of themselves.

    • Kevin Levin May 3, 2010

      I think that is one of the essential differences between the study of history as history as opposed to heritage. I have very little interest in exploring history in a way that vindicates one side over the other. That is indeed very difficult to convey to some.

  • Nat Turners Son May 3, 2010

    Well Kevin IMO I don’t think you bothered them too much or they would have left or confronted you.

  • matthew mckeon May 3, 2010

    When I was at Gettysburg I saw many a middle aged man holding forth, his hands chopping the air in the universal sign for the length of the enemy line, while the words, “flank,” and “canister” floated on the spring air. Their patient spouses listen attentively, inwardly screaming, “Fuck.the.Civil.War.”

  • TF Smith May 3, 2010

    Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!

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