The Rush to Erase the Confederacy

By Scott Sidler June 29, 2015

Rarely is there a topic in current events that fits with what I post about here on The Craftsman Blog, but this week it has happened. In the wake of the horrific shooting deaths of 9 church members in South Carolina the entire nation has been gripped with a sudden fever to remove any trace of the Confederacy from our midst.

confederate flag
Copyright: rjfiskness / 123RF Stock Photo
Like anyone I have my opinion on the topic and I will share that with you in a little bit, but this blog is not about my political leanings and I don’t expect anyone who reads it cares much which way I vote. What I will say is this:

When it comes to our nation’s history let us be slow to destroy or remove anything that cannot be easily replaced.

So should South Carolina and other states lower the Confederate flag? Of course they should. They are a member of the United States of America today and no longer a member of the Confederate States of America.

Is it a part of their history? Sure it is and some of that history is a beautiful thing that the people of the south should treasure, but some of it marred with the memory of slavery and the oppression of a people who, for no reason other than the color of their skin, were treated as less than human. No let’s not celebrate that. Let’s remember it so that we never make the same mistake again, but let’s not celebrate it.

Do I think the flag should be banned? No.

Do I think we should ban stupidity or ignorance? No. This is America!  You have the right to be as brilliant and successful as you can which means you also have the right to be stupid and unsuccessful too. Ultimately it’s up to you!

If someone wants to fly the flag at their house or on their truck I say go for it, but you better recognize what you are saying to the world by doing that. As for the government flying the flag, that time has passed. Take it down, pack it away safely, and put it in a museum for generations to look at and learn from.

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Protecting Our History

If it was as simple as what to do with the flag I wouldn’t be writing this post. What concerns me most is not what some politician thinks about a flag, but the plethora of petitions that has cropped up recently to remove any monument, plaque, street name, historic site or anything else that could remotely have anything to do with the Confederacy.

All manner of monuments have come under attack as being racist and inappropriate. Even the Jefferson monument in Washington DC has been debated whether it should be removed since Jefferson owned slaves (as did Wahington and many other founding fathers). The insanity grows daily!

Orlando's Confederate Soldier Stature
Orlando’s Confederate Soldier Stature in Lake Eola Park
In my own city of Orlando, we have a large monument in our central park called Lake Eola Park which an activist group is calling on the city to relocate to a museum “where such an oppressive image of racist American culture would be appropriately housed for historical reference.”

Oppressive?

The statue was donated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1911 and installed in the park in 1917.

Its inscription reads, in part: “The monument shall stand through the years to come as our loving tribute to the Confederate soldier and as a memorial of his heroic courage, his unparalleled devotion and his unselfish patriotism.” That inscription doesn’t seem too offensive to me. Maybe it’s the image?

The statue has the image of a Confederate soldier simply standing alone. Hmmm…

Let’s put this in the context of another unpopular war. Vietnam. Our nation was terribly cruel to returning soldiers who fought in Vietnam. Calling them “baby killers” and blaming them as if they were the ones who determined national policy.

If you think that every confederate soldier was a racist just because he fought on the side of the south then you have a lot to learn about history.

In 1862 the Confederate Army started a compulsory draft to swell their fighting numbers. Just like being drafted to fight in Vietnam didn’t make you a racist or baby killer, being drafted to fight in the civil war didn’t make you a slave owner or racist either.

A large group of these soldiers were simple men who lived in the south and one day found that their state had left the union and been ensnared in a civil war that required them to serve in the military, often fighting against their own family members just across the border. Anyone who wants to celebrate and remember a soldier (especially someone who gave their life) I will support them.

In much the same way, not all Germans were evil, Jew hating Nazis during WWII. They were a people caught up in a political machine that they were relatively powerless to stop.

 

Why This is Dangerous

I’ll step off my soapbox for a moment and tell you why this really concerns me.

All across the country there are reminders of the civil war and the Confederacy. Some of them are indeed racist and should be removed, while others deserve a place in our town and national consciousness.

I don’t think our nation is in the right state of mind at this point to decide which is which.

As the fury of anti-Confederate emotion builds to a fevered-pitch people are beginning to foam at the mouth regarding the subject, and when you are in that kind of emotional state there are no good decisions made. When the dust settles we may be left with an emotional hangover that consists of scores of our nation’s historical landmarks destroyed for future generations.

I see a fury to destroy history happening elsewhere in the world right now too. In the middle east ISIS is destroying priceless pieces of Babylonian and Assyrian history because it doesn’t line up with their religious views.

Let’s be wary as a country of any person or group making irreversible decisions when we are in a emotionally compromised state. Nobody makes good decisions when they’re drunk whether it’s wine or emotion, and this country is definitely drunk on emotion right now.

Let’s wait till the dust settles and the wounds are less fresh to make decisions that can’t be undone. When morning comes we can all sit down and speak with calm spirits and level heads about what needs to be removed and what should stay.

Some of these monuments have been in place for well over a century, and I say they can wait a few more months till calmer times prevail to determine their fate.

 

20 thoughts on “The Rush to Erase the Confederacy”

  1. Unfortunately, the statue at Lake Eola Park is being removed as I speak, with great expense. Instead, the city should have put a plaque below the statue stating how the Civil War was a dark time in America’s history and that this statue should serve as a reminder that this should never happen again.

  2. Very-well said, Scott. Thank you for your sanity!

    So much of what you have said can be applied to much if the crazy “Ready-Fire-Aim,” stuff going on nowadays.

    You’re gutsy to put this on your site, but, you couldn’t have said it better; It’s neither argumentative, nor emotional.

    Thank you

  3. Most of the states where the flag is now flown were, at the time of the war, either majority black (South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi) or nearly so (Tennessee, Florida, Alabama.) Arguments proceeding from “the culture of the South” or “the history of the South” are already starting from premises that erase half the people of the region. If people who spend this much time waxing eloquent about how important it is to honor the military heritage of “the south” put the same amount of energy into honoring the military heritage of black folks, I could actually respect them as having some intellectual heft.

    Denmark Vesey – there is a true southern hero who deserves a landmark in a southern square. Who could quibble with calling him a freedom fighter? When you convince South Carolina to raise a monument to Denmark Vesey, you can come back and talk to me honestly about how you care about honoring the valor and sacrifice of Confederate soldiers.

  4. Melissa, good point about 1984. Few people these days have read it. If they did, it seems more or an instruction manual.

    LG your tone is actually sexist and racist, against males and those that are white. Then again, who founded this country, which has such great prosperity and opportunity. It was not just rich, dead, Christian, White Men. Oftentimes and always previously women played significant roles supporting the development of this country. Perhaps you might it more advantageous to move to a country that does not respect women.

    Then again, I was looking for tips on Restoring my house, built in the Twenties. One hundred years prior there was nothing but Prairie Land.

  5. I’m now living in the NE but am originally from the West Coast. We have no concept of the South’s culture. All we know is the confederate flag stands for slavery and in-equality. If anything we did was thought of as racist….we would stop it in a heart beat.

    So why would you folks, knowing this flag promoted bad feelings, keep flying it?

    Chris

    1. Chris, you’re missing the point of the post. I say the flag should come down. It about the other monuments that are being threatened because of this controversy.

      1. Thanks Scott. I’m with you, as always, but just wanted to express my opinion on the flag that so many see as not offensive.

        We should all just get along and restore houses…..(Just bought an 1820’s farm in Norwich, VT. Can I buy you a plane ticket?)

    2. @ Chris Lee: actually that flag does not stand for that. It is unfortunate that racist people have taken that flag and used it to represent themselves. It was a battle flag representing states rights and the wish for federal gov’t to not interfere. The North owned slaves too. The war started over states rights and evolved to include slavery.

  6. As long as (whatever has the nation’s panties in a bunch) doesn’t feed me, share bodily fluids with me, or pay my bills, I don’t give a crap. Maybe more people should have this attitude. Build a bridge and get over it.

    1. Responsible citizenship and selfless statesmanship look more broadly and long-range beyond “me, my and mine” to the general welfare of the Republic.

  7. The recent media and current issues remind me of Orwell’s famous “1984” novel:

    “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

    “And when memory failed and written records were falsified—when that happened, the claim of the Party to have improved the conditions of human life had got to be accepted, because there did not exist, and never again could exist, any standard against which it could be tested.”

    If we destroy our history, what will we then have to compare anything else to? History is there to serve as a reminder, a memory, of such atrocities and the past cultures we have had, but hopefully have grown away from or are evolving from. Once these are destroyed, not only do our heritage die, but so does our history and our humanity.

  8. The articles of secession mention slaves and slavery are mentioned 83 times as the primary motivation for the southern states wanting to secede. 83 times.

    “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. ”

    //www.civilwar.org/education/history/primarysources/declarationofcauses.html

    This is why a monument to the confederacy is offensive and oppressive to non-white people. Not all wars are just, and just because someone is a soldier doesn’t make them a hero.

    Where are the monuments in your park to all the other people that made America – the first nations, those brought and forced into slavery? Do you have any understanding of how under-represented those people are in official histories?

    If we continue to celebrate only white male history, we ignore our country’s true history – a country founded by force and violence of white men against other people – we will never learn from and begin to change that attitude of violence.

    And perhaps you, as a white male who has benefited from a history of violence against others, lack the empathy required to understand when someone finds something oppressive, they actually mean it. And their feelings, and their thoughts, are as important and valid as your own.

    Also, //mic.com/articles/114474/7-ways-not-to-react-when-asked-to-check-your-privilege

    1. Good points, LG. I enjoyed the links you shared.

      I gather from the first document you cited that the states prior to the Civil War viewed themselves as more sovereign than they do today –– just as independent countries always have –– and that (from their perspective) the covenant they first agreed to (as “united” states) originally respected this but later sought to renege on this and replace it with an imposed policy.

      If this is the case, it seems that while monuments related to this era may not best represent today’s ideals, they do educate us about the paradigms of the past, just as burial mounds, temples, idols, and various other archeological cites and statuary do around the world.

      1. Rick, your very right about the states feeling more sovereign before the civil war. In fact, until the civil war the language used to describe actions by our country was very different. People used to say “The United States ARE doing this or that” instead of what we say today “The United States IS doing this or that.”
        You can’t truly understand the story without the full context.

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