Saturday, July 29, 2017


  I.  This commentary from the Dallas Morning News was written by a writer from East Texas. Parentheticals [ ] by blogger

“As Dallas [like many other cities] debates whether to take down statues of Confederate soldiers, some argue that these men fought honorably and the memorials to them should remain. [what ‘forgot honorably’ means will be discussed at the end]

I agree, the statues shouldn't be removed on the grounds that Confederate leaders were particularly villainous. They should be removed because of the racist symbolism embedded in their commemoration and creation.

Let's start with some history: The Confederate War Memorial in Dallas was constructed in 1896, 31 years after the Civil War ended. The Robert E. Lee Park in Dallas was established in 1909, 44 years after the Civil War ended.

Why were these memorials and parks created so long after the war ended if they were supposedly created to memorialize these men who fought honorably?

History teaches us that these memorials were not erected to "honor" Confederate soldiers, but rather, they corresponded with the rebirth of the KKK at the turn of the 20th century. Members of the KKK and their sympathizers commissioned Confederate memorials to embody the idea of white supremacy, as many historians have noted.

A famous example of this is the carving of the Confederate Memorial at Stone Mountain, Georgia, which coincided with the rebirth of the KKK there in 1915. The KKK held annual treks to the top of Stone Mountain throughout much of the early parts of the 20th century. One of the main leaders in building the memorial, Caroline Helen Jemison Plane, even proposed to add a KKK figure to the memorial. (Her design was denied, thankfully.)  [A hooded man in a long white sheet is not a military hero.  He doesn’t deserve to be honored along with those who obviously fought and may have die.. To add this figure would demean the real intended honorees]

People and organizations related to the KKK constructed these memorials decades after the Civil War to appropriate history for their contemporary, racist ideologies.

The controversial nature surrounding the production of Confederate memorials is not the only problem: The other is that these memorials and statues truly symbolize racism. Some might argue that these memorials portray heritage and history, much like they argue they same for the Confederate flag, but this wrong for two reasons.

1. The story of the Confederacy is the story of racism in America; the two cannot be untangled. Arguments that the Civil War was actually about states' rights have been on the rise recently, but most credible historians in America [including the most award-winning, honored and respected Ph.D. historian, Eric Foner] agree that the Civil War was primarily about slavery. If the roots of slavery and systemic racism were not embedded in the South, the war would not have taken place.  [Don’t agree, try reading a Civil War history by real, highly educated, respected historian.  Caleb Foote is not one of these]

2. People employ symbols of the Confederacy to represent bigotry. For instance, mass murderer Dylann Roof famously posed in a picture holding the Confederate flag and a gun.

We cannot forget how many people have committed acts of terror with images of the Confederacy by their side. We cannot erase the fact that many racist actions have been perpetrated under an ideology that the Confederacy represented.

The statues and memorials in Dallas should not be removed because these men were particularly "evil" or were "villains." They weren't any more evil than the oppressors who maintain injustice in society today. These memorials should be removed because they represent the idea of evil, the history of racism that plagues America's existence, and we could only hope that such erasure would further advance a racially progressive America in 2017.

I read a quote about commemorating the Confederacy once that stuck with me: It is impossible to memorialize without romanticizing.

We should no longer romanticize those who committed atrocities against human nature in hopes that we could perhaps create a more perfect Union today. Instead, we should relocate these types of memorials to museums and history books, away from public commemoration, with cautions that spell out the terrible price Americans paid when racism went unchecked.”

James Chase Sanchez is an assistant professor of writing at Middlebury College, where he studies racism, public memory and cultural rhetorics. He grew up in East Texas. . .   

II.  What does ‘Fought Honorably’ Mean?
Trigger warning.  If you are strongly opposed to tearing down Confederate Monuments, do not read this part.
There is often not much value in arguing about the meaning of words and symbols.  However, let me wade in briefly.  You be the judge.

1.  Does the term ‘fought honorably’ mean only that the soldier fought bravely, hard and with sacrifice for his Army or country (irrespective of the personal motivation for fighting and the main motivation of his state for the fighting.?

2.  Can one ‘fight honorably’ for a dishonorable cause. Consider these two hypotheticals (I am not attempting to equate Confederates with Nazis, its just the clearest hypothetical I could come up with.

A.  Consider a young German boy in 1939,  He is a strong Aryan supremacist and joins the Nazi Party and the Wehrmacht.  He wants to help Hitler make Germany, Austria and other countries “Judenfrei.”  He knows this will require mass murder of innocent people. .  He is the bravest man in his unit, suffers much and dies trying to save a fellow soldier pinned down by Russian machine-gun fire.  We can call agree he ‘fought.’ Did his motive mean he didn’t fight ‘honorably.’

B.  During the Presidential campaign of 1860 this poor Mississipi white farm laborer working on a plantation supervising slaves with a shotgun,  begins to believe that the victory of Lincoln will ultimately result in the freeing of all black slaves in the U.S.  He doesn’t own any slaves himself, but is influenced by slave owners, pro-slavery churches, pamphlets, local and state politicians and others.  He sincerely believes whites are God’s chosen people and that Satan wants blacks to rape and copulate with white women to dilute the power of the superior white race.  He fears that free black males will become uncontrolled sexual predators and rape and impregnate his wife, mother and sisters.  That’s what his pastor has told him.  He sincerely fears white southern culture will collapse because of inferior black and mulatto people.  He believes the only way to save white supremacy is to secede from the Union, even at the cost of an American v. American war.  He realizes lots of northern and southern boys just like himself will die, but it’s worth it to preserve slavery and white supremacy in Georgia and the “Old South”.  He’s seen slaves with large welts on their back from whiplashes. He’s visited the slave market where attractive black women and sold as ‘fancy girls’ (or other euphemisms) are sold to become the sex slaves of rich whites.

He realizes that the war will materially benefit rich slave-owners disproportionately and knows that the Georgia economy is heavily dependent on slave labor and the slave trade. He want to keep Georgia as it is.  He wants to keep the deep South as it is.  He want secession for Georgia and the South no matter what the human cost. He has personal feelings for Georgia, but hates the thought of Georgia with free blacks with a vote and access to white Georgia women.   Abstract and emotional loyalty to Georgia is not his  motivation.  He knows he will lose his job on the plantation if slaves are freed.  He is basically unskilled and fears that free blacks will take most of the ‘blue collar’ jobs because the may work for less than he needs for his family.  He and most of his compatriots don’t understand arguments about state soveriegnty, a constitution,  a right to secede, etc..  He cares nothing about these.  about these.  These are not his worries or motivations.He fights bravely, suffers, encourages others to keep fighting and is killed during Picketts charge at Gettysburg.  He fought bravely and sacrificed all for the cause, did he fight and die for an honorable cause?  Should we honor with statutes and namings those who fought for such a cause.    Don’t get bogged down on spurious side arguments as to who started the war and was it constitutionally justified?  You be the judge   Please post your conclusions regarding scenarios A and B.


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