I am troubled whenever I read another instance of the destruction of one of our historical monuments. It makes me draw up inside in an inexpressible way; I sense that another chip has been knocked out of our substance as a people.
I am very aware that I am an old white male, and, as such, I have not faced the discrimination that others have endured. However, are we benefiting those who were discriminated against by destroying or removing monuments?
As most know, Robert E. Lee was an American general who resigned from the U.S. Army to lead the Confederate Army. This was a very painful decision for him, but his highest earthly loyalty was to the Commonwealth of Virginia. At that time, the U.S. was a very new nation, and it was common then for one’s highest loyalty to be to his state’s soil.
As our nation has matured, loyalty to her has ripened. His arduous decision was a product of his honor as a gentleman.
Some argue today that we can no longer revere him because the cause for which he fought was wrong. We all agree with that today, but that was not the understanding at that time.
When I have been in southern cities and have seen beautiful bronze statues of him up on his horse, I feel the pain of the war our nation endured; I don’t feel anything else – just pain.
Please don’t remove that from me. Let my children, my grandchildren, and my great-grandchildren stand in front of those statues, and momentarily relive the agony of our history.
I cannot believe that any one of them would look up at one of these monuments and believe that our nation should go back to those ways of thinking. This is our history; it is not our future.
Our future, however, does require a foundation. An essential element of a successful nation is its past.
Our past guides us. Knowledge of it helps us to avoid the mistakes of our forefathers.
That is why we study history and teach it to our children. What drives that history into our hearts and minds? Monuments and battlefields.
These tangible markers of antiquity come off the pages of our history books like no written word has the power to impact us, regardless of how eloquently it is crafted.
My wife and I are drawn to these sites. It can take several hours to make one’s way through a single battlefield memorial to the Civil War, and there are many – Vicksburg and Gettysburg to name a couple of our favorites.
It is an incredible testimony to the sway this terrible war had upon our nation, and it is only fitting that we responded by constructing these lasting monuments to those gallant soldiers, along with the bitter memorials of those bloody battles.
When we remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, might we just as well remove the monuments to all of the soldiers who fought for the wrong cause?
Where do we stop? Do we tear down the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial? George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. Let us not make the mistake of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
We’ve got to come to our senses before we, step by step, undermine the foundation of this, our incomparable nation.