Saturday, July 11, 2015

Sherman's Modern-day March to the Sea

The Mayor of New Orleans, along with the entire City Council, has demanded a "conversation" about removing Civil War statues from public view and placing them in "museums." For real.

I frankly think that the frantic entire rush to re-write history is yet another example of Rahm Emmanuel's "never let a crisis go to waste" theory. When it became apparent that the President's immediate demand for more gun control wouldn't fly after the slaughter in a South Carolina church by a madman (or a demon), the Left turned to another target it's been after for years, with the smallest scintilla of a connection to it: a Confederate battle flag appeared in a photo with the demon.  The Confederate battle flag, representative of the offensive Civil War and its fuel, the institution of slavery.

The following is a thread on my Facebook page from Thursday. There is no easy solution to the "re-writing history" frenzy that is currently raging in this country, but I think the thread contains some thoughtful arguments, pro and con. My good friend of long standing is a brilliant lawyer in DC (not a government lawyer) who is also a screaming, pure Libertarian who listens to any and every genre of music, is a gourmet cook (of some really good and some really odd things), travels the world, reads more news sources daily than I knew existed, and teaches ESL to adults in his spare time.  The first two paragraphs are my original post: 

It appears that New Orleans's knee-jerking, politically correctified elected officials have taken leave of their questionable senses. If they agree to remove statues of Confederate luminaries because they are painful reminders of slave days, they should remove Joan of Arc, too. The French were among the worst slave traders. Hell, they should probably rename the city and Parish, too.

Those who disregard history are doomed to repeat it. Ask why European concentration camp sites remain open to the public. "Never forget" in multiple languages are the words on a sign welcoming visitors to Dachau. There is wisdom in educating subsequent generations.

DC Friend:  If this is so obviously the correct position, why is the trend running so overwhelmingly against it? I'm certainly not a knee-jerk liberal, but I think that taking Confederate homages out of places of honor and putting them in museums is generally a good idea.

So what argument am I missing here? It can't be that they're trying to whitewash history (no pun intended) because no one's talking about destroying the statues or making them inaccessible to the public. I haven't heard one call for closing the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. 

It can't be that you should never take down a statue that is a part of a country's past, else you'd be arguing that statues of Lenin should still fill the plazas of eastern Europe and statues of Hitler should grace the entrance to the Reichstag.

It can't be that the statues honor "Southern heritage," if you include in that heritage black southerners. 

I see that some people are really outraged about this trend, but I honestly don't see why.

Enlighten me. What is the argument against moving the statues to a museum (and saying this is "PC" is a conclusion, not an argument)? I just don't get it.

  • Moogie:  The most obvious answer is: "What Museums?" the Confederate Museum in New Orleans is certainly not large enough to accommodate what the Council and Mayor propose to move. Accordingly, museums would need to be built at taxpayer expense. Then we'd have anther outcry against expenditures to "honor" Confederate homages. Few places have Smithsonians at their fingertips.

    I also consider the statues to be works of art. Why restrict the public's ability to see pretty things? Not everyone can afford to, or has time to, go to a Museum. 

    Perhaps the dialogue could include a rational discussion of who Robert E. Lee was, other than a Confederate General. Who was PGT. Beauregard? They were not evil men; they were not despots as were Lenin and Hitler. Maybe we should require schoolchildren to read "The Real Lincoln." His correspondence reveals that he wasn't quite the idol-quality guy that we see revered today. What were the US economy and culture like in the 1800s? How did they differ from today's? Are those differences proof that a civilization can grow and change? 

    Must we throw out the baby with the dirty bath water? 

    If we're doing away with all homages to the Civil War, let's address Union references, too. Why not shut down all Civil War sites -- no more Gettysburg and Vicksburg and Shiloh and . . . . That would save us a boatload of money! Maybe we could start to pay down some of the debt we owe China.

    Where does it stop? Connecticut is already proposing to drop Jefferson's and Jackson's names from the Democrat Party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner fundraiser because they were slave owners. Where does it stop?

    Where does it stop.

  • Moogie:  And while we're at it, let's pressure Rome to demolish that barbaric Colisseum.

  • DC Friend: Well, since I posted this, I see that the House of Representatives has voted to prohibit people decorating the graves of Confederate soldiers in national cemeteries with Confederate flags, so you're obviously more right than I thought about some people trying to rewrite history and to prevent opposing viewpoints. That's crazy.

DC Friend: But I still don't understand the argument in favor keeping Confederate statues and flags in any governmental places of honor. All the analogies you make (Colosseum, Joan of Arc, Paris, Dachau) are interesting, but analogies are notoriously slippery and to me these don't seem to fit. 

Without using analogies, how would you finish this proposition? 

Resolved: That the people of New Orleans should continue to leave statues of Confederate leaders Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and P.G.T Beauregard and the statue honoring the victory of the White League over the Reconstruction government in the 1874 Battle of Liberty Place in places of honor on government property in New Orleans because .....

(These are the four statues whose relocation is being proposed. To me the most interesting question is what to do with the one for the Battle of Liberty Place -- I'd let that one stay.)

Moogie:  ... they represent a dark period of New Orleans history that should not be forgotten lest it, or something worse, recur. They are also beautiful works of art and testaments to the divine talent vested in the human soul and hands. New Orleans is a pretty big place. There is plenty of government property upon which to place new works that celebrate the "culture, unity, hope and future" of New Orleans as desired by her current mayor, without relegating extant works of art to warehousing.

[My analogies come from my analysis of what the real issue is behind this sudden history revision. The analogies relate to slavery. I think this modern Sherman's March to the Sea is not about the Civil War itself, it's about the institution of slavery itself. Slavery can't simply be condemned, there must be some current, physical manifestation of the condemnation. Since the actual historic figures who participated in the Confederacy's effort to maintain the institution of slavery can't be drawn and quartered themselves, in person, then their likenesses must be banished. (Except for Nathan Bedford Forrest, and his WIFE, whose bodies the Memphis city council has voted to EXHUME and relocate!)]

Where will it end.

DC Friend:  Well, okay, I'm sympathetic to the argument that we need to keep the errors of the past front and center so they won't be repeated. (But that is definitely not an argument I've heard anyone else make about why Confederate memorials need to be retained.) I'm also very sympathetic to the notion that the statues themselves are sometimes beautiful.

Those are both valid points and ones that I don't really disagree with at all. However, I don't think those are sufficient to carry the day for keeping all Confederate monuments, many of which are clearly intended to honor the person. If I were a Memphian, I'd be adamant about demanding that the statue honoring the vile Nathan Bedford Forrest be taken down -- and that if his body isn't dug up and moved, then the tombstone should be accompanied by a placard explaining both his evil deeds and his undeniable military talents. 

On the other hand, if I were a resident of Richmond I'd be adamantly opposed to removing any of the statues on Monument Row. They are particularly beautiful and particularly historic in the setting of the capital of the Confederacy. 

So I'm open, for the reasons you suggest, to making a case-by-case assessment of whether particular monuments should be removed to a more "historical/educational" setting that can't be misinterpreted as honoring an aspect of our past that was mistaken (at best). In the mix of factors, the fact that the statues are deeply offensive to many citizens would carry great weight with me, however. The government should not be engaging in speech that is intended to offend a substantial segment of the citizenry.

Moogie:  Case by case assessment may be a reasonable compromise, depending on who assesses what. And, whether there is an acceptably accessible public alternative site. 

I disagree, however, with the notion that the speech is "intended to offend a substantial 
segment of the citizenry." Intent is a highly fluid concept, subject to manipulation. In the vernacular of our generation, simply, it is what it is. 

Also, many Confederate luminaries are worthy of recognition, if for no reasons other than their actions following the war; Robert E. Lee, being a subject in chief.

Moogie:  P.S. -- why does Richmond get a pass?

DC Friend: RIchmond was integral to the Confederacy in a way that New Orleans, which was Union territory from 1862 on, never was. 

I'm not as sold as you are on Robert E. Lee's post-war conduct, though I give him great credit for surrendering rather than obeying Jefferson Davis's directive that he disband his army and engage in guerrilla war. Lee was adamantly opposing to allowing blacks to vote until his dying day.

Moogie:  Lee promoted many other virtuous ideas concerning slaves. Nobody, however, on either side of the War of Northern Aggression ( sorry, I couldn't resist), proposed giving women the vote for decades, so there is that.

DC Friend: I might very well vote to leave the statue of Pierre Gustave Toussaint Beauregard up, since he is in some ways the symbol of New Orleans' ineffective foppery. 

Lee did promise that if the North would just let Southern whites take control again, they w
ould treat the unintelligent (his view, not mine) Negroes with "kindness and compassion." I guess you can't blame him for that not really working out, since he died before Southern whites managed to violently expel blacks from the political system.

And Beauregard was a native son of New Orleans, a hub of the world at the time.

Moogie:  Lee also insisted that negroes' service to the Confederacy, contrary to their owners' objections, be deemed voluntary on the part of the black soldiers, and a paid occupation. It was a complicated time.

Since Thursday, a cry has arisen to change the name of  several schools in Virginia -- Robert E. Lee High, J.E.B. Stuart High, and W.T. Woodson High. Three other states have followed suit. Movements are afoot to change the name of Confederate Boulevard in Little Rock -- you know, the street upon which sits a Confederate cemetery. 

Sherman and his men are marching through the countryside again.

The PC Aristocracy and its minions are fomenting a xenophobia of a dead civilization -- a civilization "gone with the wind." At light speed.

Where will it end.  Will it end?


  1. I'm so tired of this crap that I want to line my front yard with Confederate battle flags. History is what it is. And in reality, it IS repeating - many slave owners were afraid to release their slaves because they didn't think they were capable of caring for themselves without help. Democrat belief of the last 60 years, anybody?

    I can't wait until somebody starts trying to take KKK Byrd's name off of things here in WV. The libs love him.

  2. You're so very right, PH. Incapable of caring for . . . . Multiple generations. With more to come.

    The Byrd thing could be amusing.