Over the past month I’ve written quite a bit about the ongoing discussion about the place of Confederate iconography – specifically flags and monuments – in local communities. Listening to the viewpoints of people on all sides of this issue and having to consider the actions of others has given me quite a bit to consider. A trip to Europe and exposure to new public history has also added to my curiosity. That I blog about it gives you a front seat to a thought process that may seem confused and even frustrating.
In 2011 I published a brief essay in the Atlantic in response to the vandalizing of the Lee Monument in my old hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. I’ve linked to it numerous times over the past few weeks to give readers a sense of where I am coming from as a historian of Civil War memory and, more importantly, as an educator. I even reiterated the points made in a recent post.
A number of posts, however, have left readers wondering if I have shifted positions and at least one fellow blogger recently suggested that what I’ve written ‘legitimizes the vandalism’ of monuments. I have always tried to write in a way that challenges readers, but I have also tried – as has been the case re: Civil War monuments – to bring my own assumptions into sharper focus.
So, in writing about the fact that the first monument to Calhoun that was erected in Charleston was removed, I was not suggesting that all Confederate monuments should be removed. Rather, I was reminding readers that removal is not a new concept. My recent visit to Prague and a museum that included numerous monuments removed after the fall of communism gave me a great deal to think about as I read editorials from back home demanding that Confederate monuments be treated similarly. Finally, a post I wrote two days ago has left some people wondering or accusing me of sanctioning the vandalizing of Confederate monuments.
I admit that I am still working through questions that I thought I had settled in my own mind. I admit that I have been challenged over the past few weeks. If you are confused by what I have written, you can always ask – though for the life of me I can’t imagine why that would be so important. For now, I recommend my 2011 Atlantic article.
Beyond that, you are welcome to come along for the ride.