Being deeply involved with several history clubs, even the vice president of one, is the reason I’m more aware of the controversies surrounding Confederate monuments and flags than the average person. Taking them down to display them in museums where people can learn from them seems to be an obvious, long overdue step in the right direction. Still, there’s an uncomfortable, too large, minority of citizens vehemently opposed to their removal from public places. Their reasons are built on nostalgia for fantasies that never were. We’ll get into them as these blogs continue. For now, one that appears on the surface to be innocent is perhaps the most disingenuous. They’ll argue that, “of course slavery was wrong” while at the same time they want to honor the people in gray who said slavery was right and not only should continue forever, but also spread. Historians are absolutely right in stating the Confederate cause that way, because it’s exactly what the slave states’ governments said over and over that they were fighting for. No one on the side of removing these symbols of bigotry and racism (because that’s what they are) is saying anything about forgetting what they represent, no one!
The irony is simple yet profound. It hints that history truly is a march toward justice. The truth is, those who defend those symbols are causing their removal faster than anyone else. For those who honor, either by ignorance or from a “meanness of heart”, a cause that proudly boasted that all people are not created equal, removing their heroes and symbols is an infinitely small price to pay for their being so dishonest. History gets it right eventually but sometimes the enemy of ignorance and hate is so strong it has no choice but to act in the slow, laborious way it sometimes does in order to make the truth undeniable to everyone. Confederate symbols belong in museums never to be forgotten. Let’s use them in classrooms too so children can always recognize how hatred isn’t possible without ignorance.
My favorite ex-Confederate soldier, Mark Twain, who deserted the Rebel Army, would later say; “Loyalty to petrified opinions never freed a human soul and never will.” Confederate symbols epitomize petrified opinions! Honoring them petrifies everyone. Learning from them frees all of us . .