The statue of General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, VA at the center of Saturday’s protest.

The statue of General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, VA at the center of Saturday’s protest.

I wanted to address the current push to remove any vestiges of the Confederacy. A couple of years ago I wrote that, as a Christian, I felt the Confederate flag needed to be laid down – not as a matter of public policy, but as an act of love for my black brothers and sisters in Christ.

I see a difference between displaying a Confederate flag in the back windshield of a truck (though I support the First Amendment right to display it) and a Confederate memorial or historical landmark.

I am concerned by the push to tear down anything and everything Confederate. I don’t say that because I want to defend the Confederacy and what they represented. I don’t defend it, and I certainly don’t support slavery, racism, or injustice. Slavery is a shameful chapter of our history. But it is part of our history, as was, the Civil War.

It doesn’t end with Confederate generals.

Many of those who are pushing this agenda don’t want to stop at statues of Confederate generals. Jarrett Stepman at The Daily Signal wrote back in June:

While many on the political right have been fine, and in some cases glad, that Confederate heroes are being wiped from public places, they are deeply mistaken if they think this crusade will stop with secessionists.

Most recently, “Antifa” protestors in Texas have demanded the removal of a 100-year-old statue and “any other landmark that bears the name of Sam Houston,” according to Conservative Review.

Houston, one of the founders of Texas, was a staunch Unionist and denounced the creation of the Confederacy.

But Houston owned slaves, so he’s been added to the purge list, which now includes: Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and even one of the fathers of progressivism, Woodrow Wilson, among many others.

This crusade makes little distinction between Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Jefferson Davis.

He wrote there is no room for nuances among those who are pushing this agenda.

In this debate, nuances are irrelevant. America’s sins must be purged. And to the left, which increasingly doesn’t recognize American exceptionalism or the greatness of the American founding documents, all of American history is in need of redemption.

Gone are the days of Jefferson’s inaugural address in which he announced, “We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.”

This desire to purge is a movement to reshape who we are as a nation and from where we came. Confederate statues today represent not a celebration of what the Confederacy fought for, but a reminder of how far we have come as a nation.

Does this mean we shouldn’t remove any Confederate statue?

Some middle ground?

No. I think there’s a good argument for removing statues erected during the Civil Rights era; constructed as a form of protest, not a remembrance of history. If city councils vote to remove those from public land, I’m not going to protest it.

Also, not every Confederate deserves a statue or memorial. Rich Lowry at National Review writes:

There’s no reason to honor Jefferson Davis, the blessedly incompetent president of the Confederacy. New Orleans just sent a statue of him to storage — good riddance. Amazingly enough, Baltimore has a statue of Chief Justice Roger Taney, the author of the monstrous Dred Scott decision, which helped precipitate the war. A city commission has, rightly, recommended its destruction.

Some Confederates committed atrocities, and I certainly wouldn’t balk removing any statue of those men from public land after a robust public discussion and debate. Confederate General Robert E. Lee, however, is not one of those men. He was against slavery, a fact that lost upon many who protest him.

I personally would balk at a statue erected for Union Major General William Tecumseh Sherman, had he been on the losing side, he probably would have been considered a war criminal. (Sherman’s March to the Sea has long been debated.)

Perhaps moving some Confederate statues to battlegrounds and museums is good middle ground. The statues of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in Baltimore will be moved to the Chancellorsville, VA battlefield.

I think we all should stand against mobs tearing statues down. Private property should certainly be respected as well.

That said, I hate the fact they are flash points of racial tension and rallying points for white supremacists. I can understand moving them on those grounds as well.

The problem with this mindset.

My greatest concern isn’t so much with the statues as I am with the mentality about it which essentially, in a nutshell, says “this offends me so it should be removed.”

With a growing number of people running for safe spaces as they are triggered, it is not hard to imagine why this mindset is problematic.

What is to stop the rationale behind this movement from getting highjacked for other causes.

The LGBT activists have already successfully highjacked the Civil Rights movement. What is to prevent them from pushing to rename streets and buildings of people they deem were not supportive of their agenda? I mean they are already pushing to have individuals who disagree with them fired, so while some may think I’m being dramatic it isn’t a great leap of the imagination.

There is a conversation to be had about what place should the Confederacy have in our collective historical memory, but it needs to be a conversation had in good faith which is increasingly difficult to have.

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1 comment
  1. Dear Mr. Vander Hart,
    While I appreciate your more reasonable and more thoughtful examination of this issue–at least some concessions that Confederate symbols and celebrations are problematic–your final analysis of the problem of mindset is in my opinion way off base in this situation. I don’t think we can lump reactions to our country’s long and sordid history of slavery in with your idea of a current trend to be offended by things. The problem of racism runs so deep in this country and is so interwoven with our history (isn’t it problematic to you that our founding fathers espoused liberty and equality for all but they were really only speaking about white, property holding men?) that being offended by statues that celebrate essentially a rebellion against the US and the enslaving of a group of people is in a category all its own. And as far as a slippery slope argument–(what about Jefferson? What about Washington?) I think if it comes to that we can ask ourselves is it really wise to celebrate a human being anyways? As even the best of us are flawed and sinful? Let’s not elevate any of our founding fathers to saint like status. They were just human beings. Racism is such a deep, deep stain on our country it must be considered on its own, separate from any political spin. Maybe people are just realizing honoring confederates is rather backward and not helpful towards unity. Maybe it has nothing to do with a mindset that worries you.

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