Paulelmo's Blog

Civil War Statues Debate in the Wake of Charlottesville

I don’t care to talk about political things, because my experiences have taught me that most people who want to talk politics don’t actually want to talk politics; rather, they want to argue politics. If you don’t believe that, tend a bar for a week.

Nor did I ever care to get involved in the debate over whether or not the Confederate statues should be taken down in southern cities; but when you make it about me–at least somewhat–I feel called to do so. My wife is from Gettysburg, and, while we no longer actually live in Gettysburg, her family still does, and Gettysburg is part of who she is and what our family has become.

Up until recently, I was thinking that these statues in the south should probably be taken down; why should a person who descended from slaves have to go to Richmond or any of these other cities and see monuments to the men who fought to keep his or her people subjugated? Seemed kind of like a no-brainer to me.

Then, however, I read Dustin B. Levy’s article, “Gettysburg officials: Confederate monuments here to stay,” from the Hanover Evening Sun, and I realized another side of the argument.

Gettysburg was, of course, a northern city, but the more than 1325 plaques, monuments, and markers throughout the town memorialize southern soldiers and regiments as well as northern. Being a northern town, it would seem that the intention of these tributes wasn’t to celebrate or glorify the Confederate army, but to help fill in the narrative of our national history.

Still, if we allow for the monuments to be removed in the south, then we’re going to allow them to be removed in the north. That, of course, would mean that we’re doing nothing other than censoring our history.

But where does it end? Washington and Jefferson owned slaves; are we going to tear down The Washington Monument and Monticello? Robert E. Lee, conversely, never owned slaves.

When I try to think about where it will all end, I can’t; if it isn’t stopped at some point, then it seems that it will never be. That gets me thinking of a world created by the likes of Orwell, Huxley, or Bradbury, and that scares me.

I have no answers to these questions, of course; Mr. Levy just gave me a little food for thought. I’d be interested in hearing what you think.

3 Replies to “Civil War Statues Debate in the Wake of Charlottesville”

  1. They say, within 2 generations immigrant families start to quit using their language, get further away from their history, get further and further away from where they came from. ( Not always bad, one should become a citizen of their chosen country) ….just a random fact I had heard. Here, in one generation already, there are some very prominent African Americans who “haven’t even thought about those statues.”. If everything is removed, history whitewashed, things that “offend” others not taught, within another generation only the young whose families were directly involved will know about any of it, in another generation, it barely will have existed to them. Once forgotten, the sins of our past are sure to be repeated.

  2. I definitely can see both sides of the debate. I loved to learn history. There are horrible things that happened to all of our ancestors it does not change that it happened if we remove a monument, stop teaching, or remove the history books. I ask the same where would it end??

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