Irony Can Be Pretty Ironic

The white supremacist terrorists in Charlottesville had as their purported goal the “saving” of the Robert E. Lee monument in that city. The result of their hatred and terrorism may well be an accelerated removal of many more confederate monuments. As we see in this story, across the country confederate monuments are rapidly gaining more opposition. In Gainesville, Florida, Mayor Lauren Poe said, “We should not glorify a part of our history in front of our buildings that really is a testament to America’s original sin.” The city returned the statue to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who has since moved it to a private cemetery. In Durham, North Carolina, private citizens faced with a state law that prohibited the city from taking action, took action in their own hands and brought that city’s confederate monument down. In Jacksonville, Florida, City Council President Anna Brosche said, “These monuments, memorials and markers represent a time in our history that caused pain to so many,” as she ordered an inventory of confederate monuments preparatory to removing them. Lexington, Kentucky moved up the date for removal of its confederate monuments.

According to Lexington, Kentucky Mayor Jim Gray, “Mayors are on the razor’s edge. When you see the tension. When you see the violence that we saw in Charlottesville, then you know that we must act.” This story tells us more about his views and quotes him: ” ‘It’s just not right that we would continue to honor these Confederate men who fought to preserve slavery on the same ground as men, women and even children were once sold into a life of slavery,’ Gray said in a video statement. ‘Relocating these statues and explaining them is the right thing to do.’ ”

A monument to Nathan Bedford Forrest, confederate general and early leader of the KKK, is again under assault in Memphis, Tennessee. ” ‘What Nathan Bedford Forrest stood for doesn’t express the views of this community at this time,’ City Attorney Bruce McMullen told the local Commercial Appeal, ‘and it’s counterproductive to what we want this community to be, and that is an inclusive community working together.’ Along with the still-pending waiver application to have Forrest’s statue removed, McMullen told the paper the city plans to apply for a waiver to pull a monument to Confederate President Jefferson Davis from a park.”

Baltimore just removed all of its confederate statues overnight [see here, here, here, and here], including a monument to Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, a monument to confederate women, a confederate soldiers and sailors monument, and a monument to the infamous Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, author of the despicable Dred Scott decision. Mayor Catherine Pugh said, “They needed to come down. My concern is for the safety and security of our people. We moved as quickly as we could.” According to Mayor Pugh, “Any city that has Confederate statues has concern about violence occurring in their city. Baltimore is right in the midst of getting a consent decree completed, that isn’t something that’s needed.”

In this op-ed, Rich Lowry of the National Review says, “The monuments should go. Some of them simply should be trashed; others transmitted to museums, battlefields, and cemeteries. The heroism and losses of Confederate soldiers should be commemorated, but not in everyday public spaces where the monuments are flashpoints in poisonous racial contention, with white nationalists often mustering in their defense.”

In Brooklyn, New York, according to this story, “where for more than 100 years, a plaque honoring Robert E. Lee has been affixed to this tree outside St. John’s Episcopal Church, a tree Lee himself planted in the early 1840s, during his time stationed at the nearby Fort Hamilton Army base, … the plaque is coming down, to be removed by custodial staff, according to Bishop Lawrence Provenzano of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. The diocese owns the church, which hasn’t been in active use since 2014 and is being sold.” Local resident John Hagan, displaying better historical acumen than the President of the United States, said, “Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson committed treason in defense of slavery.”

In California, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery removed a monument to confederate veterans buried there. “Since 1925, the 6-foot monument has stood in the Confederate section of the cemetery, where more than 30 Confederate veterans, along with their families, are buried. The monument will be taken to a storage site within the next 24 hours, cemetery officials said, but the grave markers will remain.”

In Birmingham, Alabama, local officials ordered workers to cover up the city’s confederate monument while they debate what they should do. “The mayor of Alabama’s largest city ordered a Confederate monument to be covered — but not removed — as Birmingham weighs its legal options in the face of a law that prohibits the removal of rebel memorials. City Council President Johnathan Austin asked Bell to do more than cover it up, and defy the recently enacted state law and remove the monument entirely.Mayor William Bell on Tuesday ordered a 52-foot-tall Confederate obelisk in Linn Park covered with wooden panels. ‘We need to take them down,’ Austin told the mayor during a City Council meeting, AL.com reported. We will deal with the repercussions after that.’ The monuments are ‘offensive to our citizens,’ he added.”

Late news out of Richmond, Virginia tells us Mayor Levar Stoney has expanded the focus of the Monument Avenue Commission to include removing the monuments. In his statement, he said, “Effective immediately, the Monument Avenue Commission will include an examination of the removal and/or relocation of some or all of the confederate statues.” In his statement, Mayor Stoney said, “While we had hoped to use this process to educate Virginians about the history behind these monuments, the events of the last week may have fundamentally changed our ability to do so by revealing their power to serve as a rallying point for division and intolerance and violence.” Mayor Stoney had favored merely contextualizing the monuments while keeping them in place. The first public meeting and the Charlottesville terrorist actions led to his change of heart.

The President and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation issued a statement today:

[begin quote]

In recent months, many communities have been vigorously debating anew the impact, meaning, and propriety of Confederate memorials and symbols in the public space. We have received questions from across the political spectrum about our stance on this.

At the National Trust, we believe that historic preservation requires taking our history seriously. We have an obligation to confront the complex and difficult chapters of our past, and to recognize the many ways that our understanding, and characterization, of our shared American story continues to shape our present and future.

That goes for the Civil War, our nation’s bloodiest and most divisive conflict, as well. There are currently hundreds of monuments to the Confederate cause in America. They exist in 31 states, including far-flung places such as Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Montana. Schools and streets all over America bear Confederate names.

While some of these monuments were erected shortly after the war by grieving Southern families to honor the valor of fallen leaders and loved ones, many more were put in place for a more troubling purpose. Decades after the war, advocates of the Lost Cause erected these monuments all over the country to vindicate the Confederacy at the bar of history, erase the central issues of slavery and emancipation from our understanding of the war, and reaffirm a system of state-sanctioned white supremacy.

Put simply, the erection of these Confederate memorials and enforcement of Jim Crow went hand-in-hand. They were intended as a celebration of white supremacy when they were constructed. As recent rallies in Charlottesville and elsewhere illustrate, they are still being used as symbols and rallying points for such hate today.

These Confederate monuments are historically significant and essential to understanding a critical period of our nation’s history. Just as many of them do not reflect, and are in fact abhorrent to, our values as a diverse and inclusive nation. We cannot and should not erase our history. But we also want our public monuments, on public land and supported by public funding, to uphold our public values.

Ultimately, decisions about what to do with offending memorials will be made on a case by case basis at the community level. Some memorials can be moved, others altered, and others retained as seen fit. Whatever is decided, we hope that memorials that remain are appropriately and thoughtfully “re-contextualized” to provide information about the war and its causes, and that changes are done in a way that engage with, rather than silence, the past–no matter how difficult it may be.

We should always remember the past, but we do not necessarily need to revere it. As communities work to determine the appropriate balance, we hope they move forward in a transparent, deliberative, and inclusive way that embraces the complexity here, examines many possible alternatives, and allows for a thoughtful community dialogue that gives all sides a chance to be heard.[end quote]

Confederate heritage continues its retreat, spurred on by the white supremacist terrorists who support it.

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26 comments

  1. Shoshana Bee · · Reply

    My only concern regarding this rapid removal of statuary is that some folks are under the delusion that eliminating the monuments is somehow going to inoculate us from any further racism and hate. They are sadly mistaken: Racism is a beast of many heads that must be vigilantly cut down like the mythical hydra with a sword.

    1. Well said, Shoshana.

  2. robert r sterr · · Reply

    I’m just a newbie here, but are you implying that the only raw hatred exhibited in the C-Ville fiasco came from the supposed ‘white Nationalists’…? Or that the self avowed ‘anarcho-communist’Antifa was driven by altruistic motives and a superior ethical position…? In other words, are you of the opinion that Trump’s easily observable assertion that both sides were bad actors is false on its face…?

    1. Let me point out first the purpose of this post is to show how the behavior of the racists in Charlottesville who purportedly were there to “protect” confederate monuments actually led to increased removal of those type monuments, much like the rebellion of 1861 to protect slavery led to the destruction of slavery.

      There were no “supposed white nationalists.” They were self-described white nationalists, self-described racists, and self-identified Nazis. They went to Charlottesville to demonstrate their hatred of anyone not white. They went there to get a confrontation. They weren’t “good people.” Opposing them was a collection of groups that included a minority who were there for conflict as well. Those folks were a small minority of the total opposing the white supremacists. So yes, the raw hatred of others was solely on one side. Your comment paints the entire group opposing them as “Antifa” when in fact the folks belonging to Antifa were only a small part. The broad brush generalization doesn’t apply. Most of those opposing the racists were students, clergy, and peaceful counterprotesters.

    2. Jimmy Dick · · Reply

      It is blatantly obvious that Trump’s comment about both sides being bad actors is *baloney*.

  3. robert r sterr · · Reply

    ‘They went there to get a confrontation.’

    as you mentioned,if only glossing over it, the other side contained a ‘small minority’ of those who were in it for conflict as well…except your ‘minority’easily outnumbered the supremacists, of whom you are so terrified, and as such inflicted more physical and property damage…

    ‘Your comment paints the entire group opposing them as “Antifa” when in fact the folks belonging to Antifa were only a small part’

    come now; my comment did no such thing; I used the word ‘Antifa’, who are obviously the ones on the front line throwing urine filled bottles and f-bombs at police as well as ‘haters’; I said nothing about the contents of the crowd that was milling about the sidewalks and streets,clearly not acting as anarchists…your reply was not even a good try…

    1. Yes, in fact your comment did paint the entire group opposing the racists as “Antifa.” Your comment, whether you intended to or not, and I assume you didn’t intend to do it, created a false equivalence between the racists on the one hand and their opponents on the other hand by focusing solely on the fringe element of the opponents to the racists. And the racists weren’t easily outnumbered by the fringe elements. Again, I’m not terrified of the racists. I comment on them using my real name, and my photo is prominent on this blog so I’m pretty easy to recognize, yet I still comment strongly against them. That doesn’t seem like the action of someone who is terrified of them.

  4. robert r sterr · · Reply

    ‘It is blatantly obvious that Trump’s comment about both sides being bad actors is *baloney*.’

    hmmm…you label a comment as ‘baloney’, then leave without explaining how it is baloney…? but for the sake of argument, is it your stipulation then the ‘counter protestors’ throwing urine filled bottles at both supremacists and police (and anyone else who gets in the way) are ‘good actors’ in all of this…? I’m asking you directly; I don’t want to be guilty of making false assumptions…

    1. Jimmy can answer on his own [He used a more colorful term than “baloney” and I toned it down to keep the site family-friendly], but I have not heard of anyone in Charlottesville throwing bottles filled with urine at the police. Do you have a source for that claim? I’ve heard of it in Boston, but not Charlottesville.

    2. Jimmy Dick · · Reply

      I do not see a point in engaging you in much discussion at all. It is very clear from your posts here that you wish to deny the reality of Charlottesville and are seeking to champion a right wing position which is based on the denial of reality regarding Confederate monuments and white supremacy in the United States.

      So far in his term of office, Donald Trump has lied [edit] repeatedly to the people of this country. He has embarrassed the nation to our international allies. He has rejected the use of facts through science and championed ignorance. He has advocated for racism and bigotry. [edit]

      1. I toned down the comment a little bit.
        Jimmy, I hope Robert is not championing a position that denies white supremacy. He can speak for himself, but I suggest we hear out his position.

    3. do you think it would have been bad for hitler and the Nazis to have been forcefully opposed in the 1920s?

  5. Shoshana Bee · · Reply

    Wow….and I thought the message in this blog post was patently obvious! It amazes me the lengths that folks will go to obfuscate the most simple of messages:

    The white supremacists are their own worst enemy: that which they seek to protect has hastened in disappearance due to their “activism” (understated)

    I would also add that they have created a synergy and coalescence amongst anti-racist groups that did not seem to exist the day before Charlottesville.

    I almost want to thank them for waking me up to take part in activism, once again (I said ALMOST)

  6. robert r sterr · · Reply

    ‘Your comment…created a false equivalence between the racists on the one hand and their opponents on the other hand by focusing solely on the fringe element of the opponents to the racists…’

    of course I concentrated on the ‘fringe elements’ (can’t imagine why you won’t refer to them by their correct term, anarchists, which in fact is their preference, seeing as you so freely toss about the term ‘racist) because those were the people that engaged the nationalists in the streets, thus creating the visual of two violent antagonists that everybody saw…that is the ‘equivalence’ that I drew; can’t imagine why you don’t get that…I get that you’re attempting to portray an image of everyday folk merely exercising their legal rights against intimidation, except everyday folk don’t show up to rallies with mace, pepper spray, riot gear like helmets,vests, and shields, armed with projectiles filled with less than wholesome contents, as both these groups did…

    ‘And the racists weren’t easily outnumbered by the fringe elements.’

    okay, I’ll drop the ‘easily’ they were just outnumbered, then…

    1. The racists were self-identified by their chants and their symbology. I didn’t see any anarchists self-identifying in Charlottesville. Being against confederate monuments is not anarchy. Being against racists and anti-Semites is not anarchy. Again, you’re using the fringe to broad brush the whole opposition. From what I’ve seen, the fringe of the opposition didn’t outnumber the racists at all.

  7. robert r sterr · · Reply

    ‘It is very clear from your posts here that you wish to deny the reality of Charlottesville and are seeking to champion a right wing position which is based on the denial of reality regarding Confederate monuments and white supremacy in the United States.’

    you didn’t read my comment did you…let’s have a show of hands here; who thinks my post made it very clear that I champion white segregation and legitimizing the cause of the Confederacy…? I simply asked how you thought Trump’s comments were baloney, when anyone with two functioning eyes could see that there were two opposing elements, each acting in ways one might not consider praiseworthy; you don’t answer that direct question, but instead presume to tell me what I believe…as for Trump, I merely stated he told the truth, no more, no less…

  8. robert r sterr · · Reply

    I hope Robert is not championing a position that denies white supremacy.

    I do believe you know darn well that nothing I’ve posted here champions anything, except an attempt to get to the truth of what happened in C-Ville; it would appear I’ve stepped on a few left wing toes here, but oh well…my position is this, I care nothing whatsoever for lunatic fringes on either side of the political divide, and I champion nobody engaging in lunacy…perhaps I take too expansive a view for this particular forum…? Hope not; as I said, I came here out of frustration with
    neo-confederates hectoring me with stuff about Lincoln murdering 750,000 people,and the CW having nothing whatsoever to do with slavery…

    1. If I thought you were championing white supremacy I would have said so. When I said I hoped you weren’t I was stating a desire for the future and for what was in your heart. I assume you do not subscribe to those views, and I hope I’m right. That’s all I meant by that–just that I can’t see into a person’s heart to see what they truly believe. By the way, I’m not left wing or right wing. Well, I do lean just a little bit to the right on most issues, to the left on others. I make up my mind on each issue as it comes up. My liberal friends are sometimes upset I don’t agree with them and my conservative friends are sometimes upset I don’t agree with them.

  9. Jimmy Dick · · Reply

    There are only two sides of this particular equation. You are either for the neo-nazi racist scum or you are against them. There is no middle ground.

    “You can’t stay neutral on a moving train.” Howard Zinn

    1. Robert isn’t for the Nazis that I can see. He’s also not for the opposition from what I can tell. Zinn’s comment is senseless. One can be neutral about a great many things on a moving train–even the destination.

      1. Jimmy Dick · · Reply

        Zinn’s quote is not senseless. He was referring to things that have two sides with no middle ground. He was pointing out how so often in history people try to stay neutral on major issues when in the end they cannot do so. In the case of racism there is no middle ground. You are either for racism or against it.

        Take a look at the American Revolution and the American Civil War. Two pretty significant events that ended up with significant change no matter what side one took. Neutrality was not an option for almost anyone in those events. No matter what, everyone was impacted by the outcomes.

        1. Zinn’s quote is senseless because there is an infinite amount of things you can be neutral about on a moving train. It’s a poor metaphor. As to the Revolution and the Civil War, I’ve seen an estimate that about a third of the American people were in the middle, not taking sides during the Revolution, and in the Civil War, what percentage of military age men in the North never served? A very large percentage. It is most certainly possible to be neutral on just about any issue. The universe is full of grays.

  10. Jimmy Dick · · Reply

    If one is on a moving train, then one is going somewhere. It may not be where they wish to go, but they are going.

    In the case of the two conflicts, no matter what one did, the outcome impacted them. They may have not taken an active role in the conflict, but the outcome still impacted them whether they liked it or not.

    Take the case of Germany during the rise of Hitler and the Nazi. People had a choice. Many were neutral. The outcome still impacted them and not in a good way.

    In this instance concerning racism, neutrality is not an option.

    1. Jimmy, one can be neutral about the destination, and the train can make many stops along the way. As far as the conflicts go, sure, people were affected by them, but many were still neutral about them. Neutrality can be an option in almost every situation. As I said, the universe is filled with gray areas, and not just confederate gray.

      1. We are just going to have to disagree, Al. There are some things where gray is not a viable choice.

  11. it will be interesting to see how this echoes through the civil war ‘buff’ community.

    It may not be a good time to be a confederate reenactor.

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