In Favor of Confederate Monuments

UPDATE: A number of people have expressed frustration over my decision to publish an anonymous guest post. I understand the concerns expressed and will re-think my policy. At the same time there is a vibrant and productive discussion in the comments section of the post. People are engaging with the argument and that is what I intended. You can read my response here.

What follows is a guest post authored by a experienced instructor in professional military education, who wishes to remain anonymous. Publication of this piece should not be interpreted as constituting agreement with its content.

My thoughts on removing Confederate monuments, of any type, boil down to two major arguments with several subpoints.  As a caveat, I am not commenting on the recent violence, the President’s comments, or in any way supporting the alt-right political extremism (which is antithetical to the American creed).  My arguments below are rooted in what I call “common sense historicity.”

FIRST, taking down the monuments is a betrayal of the trust of the past in the future.  When those monuments were erected, America, and especially the American South, was a different place with a different context than that governing today’s mores and values.  The veterans, sons, wives, and daughters who paid good money to put them up, often in communities still economically damaged from the war, did so because they believed their failed cause was worth remembering–for the sheer sacrifice of it.  This was especially true for the hundreds of smaller “soldier’s monuments” scattered about the small towns of the South. That lone soldier standing atop the column represented dead husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, and comrades whose lives were tragically cut short, regardless of what we may think of the cause they fought for or the racialist society they espoused. We cannot–and especially the extreme political left today–even come close to feeling the sense of personal loss, desolation, (initial) despair, and even pride that the survivors felt.  They had given their all, and lost.  The monuments were their way of dealing with failed sacrifice. Of course, there were actual attempts to skew history on the part of some memorialists, I grant that, but the vast majority of these monuments, such as the soldier’s monument ruthlessly toppled in Durham, were put up to honor communities’ joint sense of sacrifice in a massive, and massively unsuccessful cause.  Think, if you will, how some late 19th century Americans, still loyal to the mother country, would have felt about monuments to Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and other revolutionary leaders erected in the wake of a hypothetically failed American Revolution. I sense the same canards of “treason” would have been trotted out, as they are today post-facto about Confederates, but the point is that we today cannot really comprehend what it felt like to lose just about everything in a failed revolution for independence. It is beyond the scope of understanding for all but a few refugees among us (the failed Hungarian revolt against the communists and the Nigerian civil war come to mind here).

Unquestionably, preserving slavery was a major—if not the dominant—secessionist argument for independence, and people today are historically correct to mention that.  I’ll also grant that minority groups today, especially African Americans whose ancestors were enslaved, have a right to be offended by the Confederate past.  But that does not give them, or anyone else, the right to judge the past by our modern standards and wipe away what they perceive to be offensive, especially with such undisciplined (dare I say close-minded?) rancor. Doing so is not only a betrayal of the past but also disappointingly un-American and, most troubling, short-sighted. It is not the fault of the monuments themselves or the Confederate battle flag, for that matter, that they were highjacked by white supremacists as symbols or rallying points (the flag was co-opted way back in the 1920s against the protests of the United Confederate Veterans and Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy). The monuments are silent testimonies of a bygone era. It is not they that offend people by themselves—it is the alt-right activists today and their incendiary rallies that, by association, make the monuments, especially of the leaders like Lee and Jackson, offensive to some. But if the most radical arguments now proffered by the Left are taken to their worst extremes, we should all be worried. Who is to say that in one-hundred years, statues of the heroes of the Left, like Dr. Martin Luther King (who is frankly an AMERICAN hero), might not be toppled for similarly vacuous reasons? Do we really want to set this precedent today for our descendants to follow? Should present-day political trends erase the record of the past? Thucydides would roll over in his grave at the thought. He might recommend, as have a few others recently, the erection of explanatory placards and displays adjacent to monuments that provide all sides of the story.

The historical record demonstrates the impetus for independence trumped slavery in the end (by spring 1865) for most of the Confederate leadership, and for the common soldiers, most of whom did not own slaves, the war was mainly about fighting for their homes, their comrades, their leaders, and their families (not too different from modern soldiers’ motivations). Read their letters: the evidence is overwhelming and compelling. Certainly, one may find the exception here and there, but let us not make the exception the rule. Postwar ex-Confederate southerners did create a fabric of memory that, we know, was not always truthful to the historical cause they fought for, and they were joined in the creation of the Lost Cause by many white northerners, an uncomfortable fact that has not received much air time of late. Regardless of their motivations, however, the survivors of the failed Confederate war for independence trusted that future generations would honor their failed sacrifice, which they believed, in their context, was righteous.  If any of them were alive today, they would be shocked at how the radical left now portrays them and their cause and regards their monuments.  Their historical reality was, unsurprisingly, entirely different from what the run-amuck political correctness movement has forced into most modern Americans’ heads, and I fear most American citizens today are thus completely ill-equipped to make a critically-informed, reasoned decision about what to do. The American public has truly lost sight of what it meant to be a Confederate or ex-Confederate, in the context of the 19th century, and has little or no ability to even attempt to get into the heads of dead Confederates and their offspring. Therefore, it should also not surprise us that they cannot possibly have historical-minded or enlightened thinking about the monuments. Even the descendants of the Confederate leaders exhibit this syndrome, which we in the historical education profession call “presentism.” The presentism being displayed these days is beyond saddening—and it affects both the political right and the left in spades. But political leaders on the left side of the spectrum, many just as historically ignorant as most of their constituents, have flown to the monuments issue like moths to the flame for their own purposes. Beware, my friends and colleagues on the Left–political correctness is a double-edged sword. We know not what the future and its public sensibilities may be like.

SECOND, taking down the monuments displays immense arrogance on the part of the present towards the future and future generations.  We have no idea today what the future will look like, which groups will be dominant politically, what events may occur that will alter popular outlooks, etc. I am consistently astonished how people today, again on both sides of the debate, think they know so much about “everything” and therefore “must” be correct in their self-serving convictions.  There is no room in such close-mindedness for creative thinking about what might be, what could occur down the road, and how people in the future may think about past events. This is part of thinking contingently—considering that one’s current reality may not hold forever, and that alternative paths must be pondered beforehand to avoid a future worst-case scenario. This sort of critical thinking is imperative for national security professionals.  Of course, I cannot expect the general American public to understand this concept, and do not, but also do not think it too much to ask to allow the future and its people to make their own judgments about our joint past.  Those generations to come will share the same Civil War history with us, and by toppling monuments that are “offensive” today to some, we are depriving our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of their right to make up their own minds about them, for better or worse.  This is sheer arrogance–rooted, once again, in run-amuck politically-correct presentism.  The short-sightedness of many on the Left today is simply astonishing to me in this regard.  A few groups, as is often the case in extreme Liberalism, have actually gone full circle in their thinking and are now making the case that, like the preservation of concentration camp sites in Germany and Poland, keeping Confederate monuments up will actually help the future NOT forget the past.  I deplore any parallels between the Nazis and Confederates for obvious reasons, but the basic idea is not wrong here. Perhaps these groups will prevail in their struggles within the greater Left. Concurrently, the alt-right requires a serious dose of common sense, too. Their co-option of Confederate symbols and rallies at famous generals’ monuments only spur on their adversaries, and operationalize the extremists among them to vandalize those same memorials and clamor for their removal. They cast a bitter, racist, and un-American pall over monuments that would otherwise be, as previously stated, silent reminders of a failed, past revolution and the sacrifices laid on its alter by those who survived it and, importantly, those who did not. Watching neo-Nazis parade around Robert E. Lee’s statue was sickening.

What is the answer to this gigantic mess? I would offer a modest plea for common-sense historicity. Evaluate the past on the past’s ground and on its own merits, not ours. Teach our young how to think critically, creatively, and with a sense of contextual historical-mindedness about complex, and possibly distasteful historical realities. And by all means permit the remaining monuments to stand, if for no other reason than to allow future generations the liberty of judging them for themselves.

35 comments… add one
  • Patrick Young Aug 29, 2017

    Thank you for posting this. While the author expresses heartfelt sentiments, I some problems with his argument. Let me examine a few:

    1. The author writes “taking down the monuments displays immense arrogance on the part of the present towards the future and future generations. We have no idea today what the future will look like, which groups will be dominant politically, what events may occur that will alter popular outlooks, etc.”

    If we accept this, then didn’t the erection of the monuments also display “immense arrogance?” Who were the people who erected these monuments to decide that the people of the future would even want them in their midst? The monument erectors no doubt envisioned a future in which their communities would be dominated by white people dedicated to white supremacy. In many communities they were obviously right, at least for a time. Now their arrogance seems to have caught up with them in some places.

    2. The author writes “taking down the monuments is a betrayal of the trust of the past in the future. When those monuments were erected, America, and especially the American South, was a different place with a different context than that governing today’s mores and values. The veterans, sons, wives, and daughters who paid good money to put them up, often in communities still economically damaged from the war, did so because they believed their failed cause was worth remembering–for the sheer sacrifice of it. ”

    The past can’t ever trust the future to preserve its wrongheaded legacy. We re-route old roads, take down buildings that are no longer useful, and rewrite laws every day. The dead hand of the past does not definitively control the present.

    The author is right that “America…was a different place” when the statues were erected. In many communities where the Confederate monuments were placed there were large African American populations, but those non-white people were strangers in their own land and were prevented from voting. The symbols of white supremacy could be erected without consulting the resident people of color. The descendants of those black Southerners are still there, but for the last half-century they have been able to vote. Is it wrong for the former underclass to use that power to correct an ancient wrong, or do they owe to the white men of the past who deprived them of political participation the right to determine which statues will stand for eternity in their communities?

    The author is right that “America…was a different place” when the statues were erected. In many communities where the Confederate monuments were placed there were large African American populations, but those non-white people were strangers in their own land and were prevented from voting. The symbols of white supremacy could be erected without consulting the resident people of color. The descendants of those black Southerners are still there, but for the last half-century they have been able to vote. Is it wrong for the former underclass to use that power to correct an ancient wrong, or do they owe to the white men of the past who deprived them of political participation the right to determine the modern commemorative landscape?

    • Rob Baker Aug 30, 2017

      Pat,

      I agree with your points and thought much of the same when I read the post. He does bring up one point that gave me a moment of pause. He states,

      When those monuments were erected, America, and especially the American South, was a different place with a different context than that governing today’s mores and values. The veterans, sons, wives, and daughters who paid good money to put them up, often in communities still economically damaged from the war, did so because they believed their failed cause was worth remembering–for the sheer sacrifice of it.

      I just finished up a post on the Fort Sanders Monument and spent the majority of the time talking about how a monument to the dead, as many have claimed, was also a monument designed to perpetuate a “Lost Cause” narrative. In my focus on the UDC, I overlooked the notion of the common people of these communities who supported the monument financially, and what their individual motives for doing so were. I guess I was caught in the headlights of the UDC’s agenda. Not every soldier goes to war for the same reasons that their nation perpetuates conflict. I guess the same is true when it comes to erecting monuments. The UDC might drive the agenda, but the common widow, fatherless daughter, wounded veteran, etc., gave money for their own diverse reasons.

      • Patrick Young Aug 30, 2017

        Hi Rob, thanks for your response. You write; “I overlooked the notion of the common people of these communities who supported the monument financially, and what their individual motives for doing so were. I guess I was caught in the headlights of the UDC’s agenda. Not every soldier goes to war for the same reasons that their nation perpetuates conflict….The UDC might drive the agenda, but the common widow, fatherless daughter, wounded veteran, etc., gave money for their own diverse reasons.” I think that you are absolutely right here. I think that some of these monuments served primarily as mourning objects, where lost loved ones could be recalled, for those who erected them. I suggested a few years ago to an official of a state SCV that these monuments might be more resilient if they were changed from being “Confederate Monuments” into “Civil War Dead” monuments with appropriate alterations to include USCT and Unionists from the locale. He scoffed, but in my own Long Island village, the World War I monument was later updated to add the dead from later wars. Why not do the same with these?

        • Patrick Young Aug 30, 2017

          Rob, I have to say that while you describe those who erected the Confederate monuments as having varying motives, the anonymous author wrote: “The veterans, sons, wives, and daughters who paid good money to put them up, often in communities still economically damaged from the war, did so because they believed their failed cause was worth remembering–for the sheer sacrifice of it.” In other words, the monuments are more monuments to the “failed cause” than they are to the young boys and men sacrificed in the war. There are other problems with this passage as well. Just because someone “paid good money” to erect a statue or building or anything else at some time in the past does not mean that we in the present have to keep it. Also, let’s be honest. Many of those monuments were funded with public money and placed on public land. Black money without Black votes.

          • Rob Baker Aug 31, 2017

            I’m definitely not disputing that and I hope it did not come off that way.

            • Patrick Young Aug 31, 2017

              Not at all. As I say, the monuments embed a lot of memories and meanings. I think we agree on that.

      • Sandi Saunders Aug 30, 2017

        I think documentation shows that many of these monuments were commissioned by and donated to the public square by rich white people, not widows and orphans. I think some were even paid for with tax dollars which sadly means that any taxes paid by freed blacks and their descendants also helped pay for the symbols of white supremacy in their own communities.

        This one story on “Silent Sam” is enough to turn my stomach. I just do not accept this sentiment is any kind of outlier.

        http://www.heraldsun.com/news/local/counties/durham-county/article167619947.html

        • Rob Baker Aug 31, 2017

          I agree. But I also think we should tread carefully with such arguments, they tend to drift toward classism.

  • Will Hickox Aug 29, 2017

    No doubt the author of this piece would deny it, but he or she seems far more outraged by the actions of the “extreme left” than those of the right-wingers and neo-Nazis who began the Charlottesville violence in the first place. The author’s argument against neo-Nazi embracing of Confederate monuments (which is given far less space than his criticism of the left) seems rooted in simple embarrassment, not outrage over their mindset or behavior. All in all, it is hard to take this commentary seriously except as a sad example of how many Americans today continue to sympathize with the Confederate cause, downplay its roots in slavery and white supremacy, and disingenuously portray monument-building as stemming from wholly pure motives.

    Lastly, I understand that those working in professional military education must be careful about writing on current events, but hiding behind anonymity does not help the writer’s cause.

    • Ryan Aug 30, 2017

      I only want to say this, he said and only said about the neo-nazis “was sickening to watch” you cannot just simply say he was embarrassed, he was mortified. He puts equal blame…

      • Will Hickox Aug 30, 2017

        Go back and reread that part. The author finds neo-Nazi *rallies at monuments* “sickening.” This is his begrudging acknowledgment in the midst of a vitriolic attack on what he labels the “extreme left.” Clearly, he finds the latter just as, if not more, “sickening.”

        • Will Hickox Aug 30, 2017

          Excuse me. I can’t assume the author is male.

          One more thing: For many of us, the implication that liberals are equally as bad or worse than neo-Nazis is pretty “sickening,” as is the fact that this professional military writer can’t seem to muster up much outrage over the murderous fascists currently marching in our streets. Maybe this is a larger cause for concern than vandalized Confederate monuments?

      • Msb Aug 30, 2017

        Not really.
        And by the way, the blame was NOT equal. Only one side comprised lots of non-locals who travelled to a majority black town to threaten people and scream racist and anti-Semitic abuse.

  • Boyd Harris Aug 29, 2017

    I respectfully disagree with most of this.

    As to why former Confederates erected monuments has been debated endlessly over the past month by scholars and others. To your point that it was partially a psychological salve to help survivors understand the magnitude of their loss, I wholeheartedly agree. Explaining human loss is very difficult especially in war and especially if you lost that war. That is a heavy burden, so you create the monuments and the stories that can help folks get along in their life.

    But why should I care about any of that? They are all dead. The ones who died in the war and their children and their children’s children. Why should I take the current burdens and problems that I have in my own life now in 2017 and add on great-great-great grand-daddies problems too? He fought and put his life on the line for the Cause and died. Left a widow and four children behind. That’s pretty sad considering he died for nothing. So I can understand why his wife and other women (plus men) created the Lost Cause. But I don’t need it. I don’t need the lie of the Lost Cause to make it all seem better somehow. Enough time has passed and the lie ain’t needed anymore. “They put their trust in the future….”. Well, I guess they had a good run. About a hundred years most them monuments have stood. That’s a pretty good run. Nothing lasts forever though.

    “If they were alive today” blah,blah,blah. They ain’t. They are dead. Can’t they stay dead. Didn’t they have their chance on the Earth to make it a better place? To bring happiness and love? Yep. They did the best they could. And then they died. Just like everyone before them and just like everyone after them. Can we respect them enough to let them stay dead and maybe not reserrect them every single time some current issue gets our collective panties in a wad.

    What if future generations think we blew it? Well guess what. They will. If not on this issue then on something else. I’ve spent the last five days twenty miles from Houston city center during Harvey. What will future generations say about our shared Civil War history? Probably something different. That’s how scholarship works. Will they lament lost monuments? Some. But I got a feeling more people will lament our lost environment. They want to learn more about their past? Libraries will hopefully still exist.

    But honestly, I could care less about easing future generations into some kind of presentist understanding of emotions on how bad it must have been to be an ex-Confederate in 1895. Taking down monuments is not a knee jerk reaction. It is a step forward in creating a better country that emphasizes equality and diversity over tribalism and white supremacy.

    PS: I would love to know what “common sense” is missing from the alt-right. Call them what they are. Nazis, Klan, and other white supremacists. It ain’t common sense they are missing. It’s common decency.

    • Lee Hodges Aug 30, 2017

      You said: “They are all dead. The ones who died in the war and their children and their children’s children.”

      That’s actually not completely true. “The ones who died in the war” are obviously gone, as are veterans of the war. But there are still a few children of Civil War veterans alive, and therefore grandchildren alive as well. This serves as an eloquent reminder of the fact that the war was not nearly as long ago as is often thought.

  • Lyle Smith Aug 29, 2017

    Hey, this guy is right, but what a coward! Stop hiding behind anonymity and speak freely. Be brave man!

    Posterity deserves the right to see these monuments as we all see them. The Lost Cause has much to teach us.

    • msb Aug 30, 2017

      I regret the author’s anonymity, but it doesn’t worry me, as Kevin Levin knows the person’s bona fides. Unfortunately, we know that expressing an opinion on the Internet can have equally nasty and undeserved results.

  • msb Aug 30, 2017

    Thanks, Kevin and the writer, for posting this, as this is a collection of the most reasonable arguments, for the most part courteously made, that I have seen in favor of Confederate monuments. I disagree with it on several counts (using info I first discovered on this site, as well as in a number of books), but particularly for ignoring some parts of history.
    1. The writer repeats some of the usual not-as-true-as-they-look arguments: e.g. that most Confederate soldiers did not own slaves; soldiers were fighting mainly to protect their homes and (new to me) the Confederacy had abandoned slavery in favour of independence by the end of the war. From where I sit, history looks like this: many soldiers were the heirs to slaveholding relatives (e.g. the two sons of Wade Hampton III, and the other young men whose fall was eloquently mourned by Mary Chestnut); all of them were fighting to preserve the economic and social advantages attached to having a white skin and exploiting African Americans as “property”; and the recruitment of slave soldiers was intended (a) to let Confederate whites set the terms of black freedom, as Pat Cleburne spelled out in his original proposal, and (b) largely failed to materialize owing to slaveholder resistance.
    2. The writer fails to define some terms, particularly “the Left” and “political correctness”. Who’s the Left? We are left to guess. I define political correctness as courtesy or treating other people with dignity. Reading this post with those synonyms in mind makes hay of the familiar argument that opposition to the monuments is courtesy run amok or treating others with too much dignity. In addition, while neo-Nazi and white-supremacist marches to provoke violence under the excuse of defending the monuments are indeed disgusting, in several cases they have exposed the previously obscured or denied white-supremacist aims of soi-disant Confederate heritage advocates (e.g. Matt Heimbach) and groups. Brooks Simpson and Andy Hall have done excellent work on making these links clear.
    3. For someone so convinced that opposition to the monuments arises from ignorance of history, the writer leaves out some important bits. The monuments are not just expressions of individuals’ respect for sacrifice for a cause, “though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought”. As most were built several generations after the Civil War, they actually embody and celebrate the triumph of white Southerners’ efforts to reduce African Americans to a state as closely resembling slavery as possible, without serious hindrance from other parts of the country for decades after 1877. Some of the inscriptions make this aim very clear. Similarly, the CBF cannot shake its post-war history as the banner of 20th-century white supremacy, any more than the formerly innocuous swastika can shake Nazis’ co-option.
    3a. Finally, this part of the past is not over; it’s not even the past, so the argument of presentism fails. Wade Hampton III went from Confederate general to “redeemer” to US Senator, and an equestrian monument to him still stands on the South Carolina statehouse grounds, though the CBF has gone, thanks to Dylann Roof’s murder of nine people. One can draw a direct line from 1860s white supremacy to today’s. That’s why some people oppose the monuments and some others want to retain them. Others may have different motivations.
    Why should the monuments’ fate be left to the future? Today’s people have both the power and the responsibility to shape their own environment and history. I want local people (such as the congregation of St Paul’s in Richmond) to choose for themselves, and I think they are making these choices with accurate knowledge about the past and present significance of the monuments.

  • Fred Smith Aug 30, 2017

    In my opinion, the essay’s author hurts his/her argument with an imbalanced stereotypical commentary on “the left/liberalism” and reliance on the political correctness cliche. He/she does have passion, though, and is at least willing to engage in debate.

    Broadly speaking, do we really need more division right now? Is there a better way?

    Fred Smith, http://www.thewaryouknow.com

    • Kevin Levin Aug 30, 2017

      Mr. Smith,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. This is not the first time that you have posted links to your site. In the future I respectfully ask that you refrain from doing so.

      • Fred Smith Sep 1, 2017

        Understood and thank you for informing me.

        Back to the essay at hand, a Thomas Jefferson quote comes to mind: “The earth belongs to the living, and not to the dead.”

        For consideration and a good weekend to all.

  • James M Vines Aug 30, 2017

    IMHO in addition to the points made above, the author forgets that for most white Southerners the monuments are mostly forgotten already. They were abandoned in the great white flight of the 60s and largely ignored until threatened recently. Those who protest the removal of the monuments show up in hundreds not thousands and have a varying lot of motives to show up. White Southerners do not visit the monuments, make a day trip with the family to cherish them or picnic or regard them other than pressuring their politicians into making someone else take care of them.

    The author is suggesting that the monuments be put in the care of folks that do not like them. That is not good in the long term.

  • Joshua Hauck Aug 30, 2017

    As a public historian, I find a lot of these arguments deeply weird. Public historians have to make decisions every day about what to preserve and what to destroy. Limited space and resources make it necessary. So we make decisions about what has historic value, based always on current understandings.

    These notions of a “betrayal of the trust of the past” and the “arrogance on the part of the present towards the future” would seem to tie our hands completely. We seek to preserve the past to educate the present an lead to a brighter future. But this requires making judgement calls about everything. Ever historic preservationist knows that some building can be destroyed because they have no enduring value, no matter what the original architect would say. A curator knows that some artifacts have no use in exhibits, even if the creator or the donor disagree.

    As an archivist, one of the first things I do on working with a new collection is throw a third of it away. Sometimes more. We seek to preserve documents of enduring value. Trying to preserve every little scrap would be too costly, but also make the collections far less useful to researchers. Many donors would be horrified to learn that I was chucking all of granddaddy’s vacation photos. Maybe someone in the future would really want to see them. Sorry, but that’s the way it has to be, and I’m the only one who can make that decision.

  • DAVID Aug 30, 2017

    “I grant that, but the vast majority of these monuments, such as the soldier’s monument ruthlessly toppled in Durham, were put up to honor communities’ joint sense of sacrifice in a massive, and massively unsuccessful cause.”

    The Durham soldier’s monument was erected in 1924, 59 years after the end of the Civil War. Was it really put up by the survivors to mark their sacrifice?

  • hankc9174 Aug 30, 2017

    monuments are like laws; what seemed like a good idea 100 years ago does not necessarily work today.

    memorials would/could/should be moved to cemeteries and other places designated for remembrance – not on court house lawns.

    monuments to the rebellion’s leaders have no place in either public places or museums, unless for some exceptional and unique artistic merit. Few, if any, monuments to CSA leaders acknowledge anything other than their primary legacy as part of the failed rebellion. Does Davis deserve statues as secretary of war? Lee as a US Colonel; Jackson as a VMI instructor?

  • Christine M. Smith Aug 30, 2017

    I can’t imagine why he/she wishes to be anonymous, (she wrote sarcastically). Considering yesterday I was called a Hag, a very old hag at that, and a bitter old woman because of a political comment I made on another forum, I wish I could remain anonymous sometimes. I have purposely kept silent on this issue, and appreciate the person writing it, and Kevin for posting it. This is a very charged issue and expressing a differing viewpoint from others is often dangerous. Thanks again, Kevin.

  • Joshism Aug 30, 2017

    “They had given their all, and lost.”

    And for that ever Confederates should have to their grave feeling regret and remorse.

    “we are depriving our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of their right to make up their own minds about them, for better or worse.”

    By this logic, it’s okay that we still have Neo-Nazis around because it allows our children to make up their own minds whether that ideology should be followed.

    Some ideas should be extinct.

  • Sandi Saunders Aug 30, 2017

    Obviously someone works for the government and does not want to lose their position. I did not finish this because I have a real peeve about people posting anonymously, and IMO falsely as well.

    There is documented evidence that the sentiment for these monuments was often support for white supremacy and while not every flowery speech admitted the truth, the generations that followed appropriated confederate iconography whenever there has been racial tension and certainly during the Civil Rights Movement for some reason…

    Sorry Mr. Levin, but I think you 1) could find someone better to carry this water and 2) should not allow the anonymity in a “featured” post. But it is your blog.

  • andersonh1 Aug 31, 2017

    An excellent post, with some very sound arguments. Thanks for allowing it on your blog.

  • Bob Beatty Sep 1, 2017

    Glad you posted this, despite how much I disagree with much of the author’s understanding of the purpose of the monuments and the reason(s) soldiers fought, the author captures the nuance in the “tear them down” and “keep them standing” extremes in a way I’ve not seen so clearly articulated in “print.”

    Probably my single biggest issue is that s/he calls out the “extreme Left” as if the folks who are asking for reconsideration of the monuments’ place in the public sphere are only those on the far left.

    Perhaps most are, but I’d venture to guess there are a lot more folks who veer center-left engaged in this discussion than the author gives credit for.

    This is an extremely complex issue and the author raises a lot of reasons why. For me, s/he buries his/her strongest arguments in the morass of the too-typical left/right tropes that consist of “discourse” in the American public sphere. That is most unfortunate in my estimation.

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