American patriots took great glee in watching the statue of King George III come down in New York City in 1776. More recently we’ve watched as Saddam Hussein fell in Baghdad a few years ago. Since 1989, lots of statues of Soviet leaders have been demolished. Poland, for example, is dumping a lot of Russian monuments to the liberating armies from Moscow during World War II. That isn’t making the Russians happy. And now the important leaders of the Confederacy are being removed. It just proves that sometimes you are up and at other times you are down.
There is a lot of anger whenever a former icon is removed from public ground. In our own country there are many who feel that getting rid of Jefferson Davis, P.T. Beauregard, and Robert E. Lee is an affront to a valued southern heritage. Maybe they have forgotten that about 350,000 Union soldiers died during the four year struggle to get rid of the rebel leadership. They were traitors after all. The Confederacy stood for slavery and class division built by and for a planter aristocracy. Abraham Lincoln saw the great struggle of the 19th century as a test whether this country would be built on the sin of slavery or the promise of freedom. The statues of Confederate leaders rose in city squares and in town parks across the South about 30 years after the war ended. They symbolized a desire by the white population to preserve the memory of the noble “lost cause.” For black citizens, the statues, rising ever so high on their columns and bases, were a message in stone that white supremacy had not ended with the war. Reconstruction did not bring equality and the era of Jim Crow began. Over a century later the statues remained in place. Now they are finally coming down.
I can buy the argument by some southerners that the statues represent a part of their heritage. There is no denying that. But what should not be happening is that these symbols, including Confederate flags, continue to be desplayed on public ground. They are an affront to minority citizens who live and work near them. Frankly they are also an affront to the descendents of those who fought to preserve the Union. If the Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy want to preserve their Civil War heritage, they can create museums on private property so that they can be visited and appreciated by those that revere that part of our history. In the meantime, the statues need to go.