Removal of Confederate statues and flags?

Nov 2014
169
ph
#1
So what does everyone think here about the trend in recent years of the removal of statues of Confederate personalities like Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis, and the removal of Confederate symbols from Southern state flags, is this historically justified, like the removal of Nazi symbols in Germany? And as an aside, what do people here think of movies like Gettysburg or Gods and Generals being just plain unmarketable in today's society, is this a good thing generally or a bad thing?
 
Feb 2015
363
Outer Deseret
#2
I regard the failure to destroy the traitor culture in the "Old South" after the Civil War as one of the worst mistakes America has made. The slave economy and culture was reinstated in a different form that is now called the "Jim Crow" culture. The effect of that mistake drags America backward to this day. Any day that we can now make progress in completing that job is a good day,

The treatment of the Custis-Lee Mansion (now renamed Arlington House) is a good model for how to remember the Civil War. The brief explanation at the National Park Service site hits the right notes:

Arlington House is the nation’s memorial to Robert E. Lee. It honors him for specific reasons, including his role in promoting peace and reunion after the Civil War. In a larger sense it exists as a place of study and contemplation of the meaning of some of the most difficult aspects of American History: military service; sacrifice; citizenship; duty; loyalty; slavery and freedom.

According to Wikipedia, "During the American Civil War, the grounds of the mansion were selected as the site of Arlington National Cemetery, in part to ensure that Lee would never again be able to return to his home."

Another model for the treatment of the tyrants and traitors of history exists in the way some of the monuments to Stalin have been handled in some of the former Iron Curtain countries. They have been moved to parks where the role of Stalin can be contemplated in a more accurate framework - as a lesson in what it means to give in to our darker selves and the price that was paid by the victims when that happened.
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
2,879
Dispargum
#3
There are two kinds of history. There is what really happened, and then there are the stories that a people tells itself about its own past. The Confederate statues do not record what really happened. They are part of a story. I reject the argument that we can not remove the statues because they are part of history. No they're not. They are part of a story.

Shelby Foote said there is a compromise in America in the way we think about the Civil War. The country is better off for the North having won, but the South fought bravely for a cause they believed in. I don't like that compromise because it largely ignores the civils rights issues, but I suspect Foote is right about the existance and nature of the compromise. Most conflicts end in some kind of compromise. Most compromises leave both sides feeling unsatisfied. The current effort to remove the statues is a deliberate attempt to renegotiate that compromise.

Here we are 150 years after the Civil War and we still have a race divide. We have yet to have a serious national conversation about race and the lingering effects of slavery that persist to the presesnt day. I believe the story that the South fought bravely for a cause it believed in is an obstacle to that long overdue conversation about race. It is, in the end, just a story. As easy as it was to make up that story, we could just as easily make up another story about the Civil War, or we could stop telling Civil War stories alltogether. Certainly, if a story is doing more harm than good, we can stop telling that story. What benefit do we derive from telling that story of the South fighting bravely for a cause it believed in? Must we derive our self-esteem from the actions of our ancestors? Can we not derive our self-esteem from something else, like maybe our own accomplishments?
 
Likes: Fiver
Jul 2018
151
London
#4
... believe the story that the South fought bravely for a cause it believed in is an obstacle to that long overdue conversation about race. It is, in the end, just a story. As easy as it was to make up that story, we could just as easily make up another story about the Civil War, or we could stop telling Civil War stories alltogether. Certainly, if a story is doing more harm than good, we can stop telling that story. What benefit do we derive from telling that story of the South fighting bravely for a cause it believed in? Must we derive our self-esteem from the actions of our ancestors? Can we not derive our self-esteem from something else, like maybe our own accomplishments?
It is a pity that this contrast of ideas exist, even today. I believe that all the discussion about slavery and the South's way of life had very very little to do with the real causes of the war. Today the war is remembered as a war of contrasting principles and incompatible world visions. I believe that the only cause was economic, money in the pocket of someone who someone else's wanted in theirs. Anything else is propaganda that turned into something more serious than intended and survived the end of the war.
I made a video about it.
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
2,879
Dispargum
#5
Today the war is remembered as a war of contrasting principles and incompatible world visions. I believe that the only cause was economic, money in the pocket of someone who someone else's wanted in theirs.JnKNxeKmuw4[/MEDIA]
"Contrasting principles and incompatible world visions" about what? Whether or not people should be enslaved is both a contrasting principle and an incompatible world vision. Another contrasting vision is: Should America become a commercial and industrial economy or should it remain a mostly agricultural economy? But it was slavery that tied the South to agriculture and disincentivized any impulse for the South to modernize. The states' rights argument works the same way - the right of the states to do what? If you dig deep enough, it boils down to the right of the states to maintain the institution of slavery.

I happen to agree there was an economic component to the Civil War, but when we study the economics we must confront the economic power of slavery. We probably agree that the war was not primarily waged out of humanitarian concerns for the slaves. During the war civil rights was a secondary concern for most Northerners. But that doesn't mean that the civil rights issue didn't exist nor does it mean that the civil rights issues of today can't be traced back to the Civil War. They can be. In fact, denial of the civil rights aspect during and after the war probably contributed to the rise of stories that did not include civil rights.
 
Likes: Fiver

Sam-Nary

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
6,662
At present SD, USA
#6
If the point of the Confederate monuments is to paint a historical lesson, then they need to be in connection with either the battle sites where the armies fought or where the persons in question had served or made major decisions. Because that would allow for an accurate historical lesson to be given on what happened and draw it into the lessons on what happened in the American Civil War.

That is NOT how the Confederate monuments and their battle flag has been used. Take for example the removal of the statues to RE Lee in New Orleans a few years ago. Now, Lee may have been in New Orleans at some point in his military career, but that would have been BEFORE the American Civil War, and likely in connection to the Mexican War and Winfield Scott's decision to land at Vera Cruz, rather than march through northern Mexico. In this, had the monuments been of a younger Lee and portrayed in a way that related to his Mexican War service, they would be fine in a historical perspective. However, that isn't how they were done. The Lee they portray is the older Civil War RE Lee and the monuments often pay homage to his Civil War service, which represents a historical problem... as Lee never served outside of Virginia during the American Civil War, and by the time he had command over all Confederate Armies, New Orleans had been under Union occupation for 3 years. Yet the monument was there honoring a man who didn't serve there during the war.

That then raises the question on "what is the purpose of the statue?" And based on the fact that many of these monuments were put up in places where the men honored by them did not serve during the war, the only answer is that they serve a political narrative to make it seem as though the Confederates were the good guys of the war and were the victims of northern aggression and that their political causes need to be honored. And it is something that those that constructed the monuments would be proud of in that while the Confederacy lost the war, they WON the peace. A large number of people today continue to see the Confederacy as the victims of Yankee aggression that was aimed at crushing "state's rights" and thus, the only "good" thing that came out of the Civil War is that slavery ended. And nation wide, people continue to support that idea...

I've had one argument with someone who claims to be a young female from Michigan in which "she" claimed that the Confederacy was all about small government and civil rights. Despite the fact that the Confederacy certainly did not support civil rights and historically was all for Federal Power when it served them. I won't link to the debate... as a lot of it gets into contemporary politics and other issues that go beyond the base historical point here... in that Confederate statues have served to suit a political narrative that happens to play to history rather an actual historical narrative.
 
May 2018
54
Houston, TX
#7
I would prefer that the statues and monuments be left alone. It is illogical to remove only the ones that happen to be located in what were southern locations. Shall we take down the Jefferson Memorial since he owned so many slaves? And the Washington Monument; he also owed slaves, signed the Fugitive Slave Act, etc. Shall we raze Andrew Jackson's Hermitage? Same with Jefferson Davis' Beauvoir? These guys were not Nazi's....
 

Sam-Nary

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
6,662
At present SD, USA
#9
I would prefer that the statues and monuments be left alone. It is illogical to remove only the ones that happen to be located in what were southern locations. Shall we take down the Jefferson Memorial since he owned so many slaves? And the Washington Monument; he also owed slaves, signed the Fugitive Slave Act, etc. Shall we raze Andrew Jackson's Hermitage? Same with Jefferson Davis' Beauvoir? These guys were not Nazi's....
Not being Nazis does not mean "good." And in the case of men like Washington and Jefferson there is also some element of personal distrust of slavery. Washington freed his on his death and Jefferson is known for the line, "Slavery is like holding a wolf by the ears. You don't like it but you don't dare let it go." That's some indicator that Jefferson was not a partisan supporter of slavery.

The issue with the men that joined the Confederacy is that they attached themselves to a revolution that expressly stated their purpose was to defend the institution of slavery. The documents of secession tell that pretty clearly. And while some may go at length on some topics that mention "other" issues, all of them cycle back to the issue of slavery or tie into protecting slavery in some way shape or form. In this, maintaining monuments to people and causes in areas where they did not serve or are not in relation to causes of the war in a historical manner only serve to further political narratives that were created to protect the image of the Confederacy and not its history.

In this, having a monument on the battlefields is fine, as they can then be used to tell the story of the battle and provide an accurate historical narrative of the battle and its impact on the war... but having the monuments on every street corner in nearly every city does not. And it in fact furthers the idea that the bad guys of the Civil War were the Union.
 
Likes: Fiver

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,383
Australia
#10
As an outsider in this argument it reminds me of visiting the Kremlin in Moscow and seeing the red stars of the Soviet Union still on top of the spires. A Russian told me that this was a deliberate move to remember their history, as there had been too much erasing of the past under the old regime. Seems to me that is what those in favour of the removal of Confederate statues are trying to do - erase history and pretend it never happened. In any case these statues honour the soldiers and their sacrifice, not the cause the politicians had them fighting for. In Germany today there are memorials to the soldiers of WWII. No one conflates these with memorials to the Nazi regime.
 

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