Confederate Monuments Should Remain

Posted on August 21, 2017


The controversy and violence surrounding Confederate monuments has been ethically challenging, but I think they should remain.

Over the centuries monuments have been destroyed.

At the ancient Mayan ruins in Central America are monuments of their rulers defaced and destroyed during the tumultuous fall of that civilization.

The Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten similarly defaced and destroyed statues of earlier Egyptian gods in his religious reform 3,300 years ago.

The Spanish conquistadors destroyed Aztec and Inca monuments and statuary in their war on idolatry in the New World.

In the 21st century the Taliban blew the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan in 2001. We aided Iraqis in toppling the giant statue of Saddam Hussein in 2003, and nothing can compare to the scale of destruction of monuments at the hands of the Islamic State.

Simply removing monuments and moving them so they are out of sight is not new either.

The post-Soviet Russian government removed many statues of Lenin, Stalin and others, which now reside in Muzeon Park in Moscow.

People effectively act as though destruction of a monument exorcises its power and removal banishes the power from their mist. But these pieces of metal and stone only have the meaning we assign to them, and that meaning can take any form we like. They can be revered, honored or ridiculed, or co-opted for a new purpose.

Furthermore, removing Confederate statues amounts to whitewashing our history, turning our heads away from inconvenient truths of our past. We should let them stand and use them to remind ourselves of what we are and are not, the cost our forebears paid for our freedom and to educate our children.

Destroying or removing monuments is the easy way out of our obligation to understand our past and improve our future.

Monuments about our racism, and other issues of the Civil War, can be as much a tool to counter it as they can be a tool to foment it.

The choice and obligation is ours.

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