SEPTEMBER 2017 STATUES OF LIMITATION

One  by one they are falling, like weeds being cleared from a long-neglected  garden. Statues and other public monuments commemorating the  Confederacy, that cabal of slave-holding Southern states that  precipitated the American Civil War during the 1860s, are being taken  down and placed in storage or in museums – anywhere other than the  pride-of-place locations they have occupied in public parks and civic  squares.    The presence of these monuments, along with the display and  veneration of the “stars-and-bars” Confederate battle flag, has been the  subject of acrimonious division and debate for decades. One side  decries the continued presence of these monuments as constituting tacit –  or, perhaps, overt – approval of slavery and the right to secession.  The other side insists that the statues and flags are legitimate  memorials to the history and heritage of the South.   Passions run hot  and deep in this debate. It’s as though the Confederacy’s surrender in  1865 ended the war on the battlefield, but not in the hearts and minds  of the descendants of those who fought in the conflict. Violence seethes  beneath the surface of the dispute. Sometimes the brutality breaks  through, leading to painful – and even lethal – consequences.    Case in  point: In Charlottesville, Virginia, city authorities decided to remove  an equestrian statue of General Robert E. Lee, who commanded the  Confederate armed forces during their attempt to break away from the  Union, from a public space ironically named “Emancipation Park.” In  August, a gang of white supremacists for whom veneration of the  Confederacy is only part of an overtly racist and anti-Semitic ideology  marched in protest of the statue’s imminent removal. Counterprotesters  who supported the removal soon appeared.    In the midst of the  resulting chaos and confusion, a car rammed into the ranks of the  counterprotesters, killing a young woman. A white-supremacist man faces  charges in the wake of the tragedy.


Not  only did the Charlottesville authorities uphold their decision to  relocate the Lee statue; other Southern municipalities also took action  to eliminate their Confederate monuments as well. Those measures  prompted the expected pushback from people who continue to cling to the  belief that the defeat of the Confederacy represents a “lost cause”  rather than simply a lost war.   The union’s victory preserved the  federation of states that went on to become the most powerful nation in  the world, both economically and militarily. Reluctantly, then eagerly,  the former Confederacy participated in, and benefited from, the  advancement of the nation it had attempted to rip asunder. If anything,  the South should be dotted with monuments honoring Civil War president  Abraham Lincoln and Union General Ulysses S. Grant, who won the war,  rather than Lee and Jefferson Davis, who was president of the  Confederate states. It stands to reason that many Southerners have long  since accepted the result of the Civil War, and have moved on. Yet many  others, as evidenced by the Charlottesville disaster, clearly wish the  outcome had gone the other way … that the Confederacy had succeeded in  its aim to establish itself as an independent nation.    But why? Do  these dreamers really believe that residents of a separate South would  have lived happily ever after, with no more interference from those  do-gooding abolitionists from the North?   Well, you know the old  saying: 

“Be careful what you wish for.”