After the events in Charlottesville this past month, I had to clear my thoughts. Discourse had, once again, reached a level of absurdity. Media of all stripes used the act of one misguided person to vilify the entirety of a group. It used this act as cover to endorse silencing speakers of unpopular points of view. It portrayed violent agitators as saints while stripping away the humanity of those who opposed. The President faced heavy criticism, even from members of his own party, for not fully embracing the media’s moral absolutist narrative. Lynch mobs were out for blood. Many inflicted their fury on relics of the past. Personally, I had much to say, but I needed the inspiration to put it all together. I visited the resting place for some of those who had become so controversial in recent months; those whose legacy lay at the foundation of the ideological battle of Charlottesville.
Ironically, the Confederate Cemetery I visited is on a side of the city I have often heard referred to as “Nigger Town.” As I trod on those hallowed grounds, I felt a sense of peace, a sense of understanding and awareness. Before me were men who fought honorably for their country while it faced attack. These soldiers defended their homeland from an invading force that committed war crimes, burned cities, and killed innocent civilians, all in the name of Union. These men were virtuous. Their sacrifice is worth honoring. At the very least, their historic impact deserves to be remembered.
Many of the beautiful monuments across the South, including the one desecrated in Durham, are meant to recognize the sacrifice of Confederate soldiers, not just particular individuals. The vast majority of these soldiers did not own slaves. In fact, some of these soldiers were slaves themselves. Those who destroy these monuments and force cities to take them down, against the will of the people, are similar to those who sent armies south to enforce their own sense of morality. The privileged, mostly White individuals ravaging monuments for “social justice” are the successors of the same masters of war ravaged cities for “emancipation.”
Southerners do not go North and demand Northern cities take down statues of those who committed war crimes in the South. In no way would I ever advocate for that. The historical record should remain, art should be respected, and the will of the people should prevail. A recent PBS poll showed most Americans do not want to take down Confederate statues and monuments. It is they who shall have the final say.
Public statues and monuments are the collective speech of We the People. As long as I am alive, I will argue in favor of using this collective speech to honor the men whose graves I visited. The men who inspired me finally to write this article.