Erasing the Past Won’t Make it Go Away — Why we Shouldn’t Remove Statue of General Lee From Park

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"Sham" says it all.
“Sham” says it all.

Last night, a coward was busy in Lee Park trying to put forth their agenda of erasing the past – or more likely trying to “go viral” on the Internet. Somehow emboldened by recent events surrounding the Confederate flag’s removal on everything from state capital buildings to The Dukes of Hazzard‘s own General Lee, someone too afraid of dialogue took to blaring their ill-spaced thoughts in Krylon.

Personally, I think flying outdated flags and clutching equally outdated symbols are dubious pursuits no matter the context. Imagine flying the British Union Jack at U.S. government buildings. It’s today, not yesterday. It’s a flag pole, not a history class film strip.

But aesthetics aside, flags and symbols often carry personal weight for those on both sides of their meaning – especially symbols born of conflict. The confederate flag being flown in public areas is a daily reminder of not only the historical tension over slavery that spawned the war, but also of the “sore loser” who uses it to demonstrate the racial motives it represents. To still fly the Confederate flag over a century later is only evidence of ideological stagnation. For a government to fly it demonstrates that, while it’s supposedly the protector of the downtrodden, the government itself sees its own citizens as unworthy of that protection or respect.

I admit to not having given the Confederate issue much thought before now – I’m a white Yankee whose ancestors arrived after the war. I basically thought its devotees were backwards hillbillies or antiquated bigots – something between a mullet and a KKK robe. Initially I downplayed its significance (because, like many, it didn’t really apply to me) but then I wondered how I’d feel if Texas was flying a “God Hates Fags” flag over the state capital – as many of our leaders seem to not-so-secretly want.

And then the penny dropped.

These symbols have emotional impact. What I don’t get is this new movement to erase anything to do with the Civil War. It’s as though forgetting the past makes today better – a kind of selective Alzheimer’s. As a member of a group whose history was largely never written, let alone erased, I find this is a specious argument.

“Out of sight, out of mind” is not how a society remembers, understands and advances. It’s how a society forgets and repeats.

Defacing the General Lee statue in Lee Park accomplishes nothing except sucking the air out of a conversation that needs to occur. Is Lee Park better being bulldozed, its name erased from history? Or is it better to remain as is, with appropriately-written historical markers explaining the cause of the conflict, our society’s reaction to it and our continued evolution on the issue of race? I’ll take the latter every time because education and context are what helps society to understand the past and move past it.

Tombstones are placed on graves to remember, not forget.

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Jon Anderson

Jon Anderson is CandysDirt.com's condo/HOA and developer columnist, but also covers second home trends on SecondShelters.com. An award-winning columnist, Jon has earned silver and bronze awards for his columns from the National Association of Real Estate Editors in both 2016, 2017 and 2018. When he isn't in Hawaii, Jon enjoys life in the sky in Dallas.

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  1. Bob Stoller says

    On various road trips through the years in and through the South, I visited Civil War battlefields and related historic sites, and I thought I had a good understanding of what the Civil War was about. The recent discussions about these various symbols has made me question much of what I learned. I now know that slavery was NOT a “peculiar institution”–it was the heinous practice of owning another human being for the purpose of using his or her labor for one’s own economic benefit. I now know that Robert E. Lee, and the other Confederate generals, voluntarily took up arms in open rebellion against their lawful government (much as George Washington did less than a century earlier). The difference between the American Revolution and the Civil War rests with who won and who lost. When we honor Lee, and the others, we are honoring the traitors who lost their war and failed in their rebellion. But that does not justify erasing history. The story of Lee Park, and its statue and its building, is more than the story of Lee and the Custis–Lee Mansion (Arlington Hall)–it is also the story of the aftermath of the Civil War, and how revisionist history was employed to glorify and glamorize its losers. That lesson is also important, and that is probably the best reason to keep Lee Park as it is–so that we can remember ALL of our history: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

    • Jon Anderson says

      Exactly. If the Germans can turn the concentration camps into a teaching moment, we should do no less. In fact the largest WWII internment camp in the Pacific for Japanese Americans, Honouliuli, on the island of Oahu was designated a national monument just this past February. It’s goal is to educate visitors to see that shameful policy, born of hysteria, isn’t repeated.

  2. Sam Spivey says

    Jon –
    Interesting post. Especially the fourth paragraph in which you equate the alleged symbolism of the Confederate flag with “backwards hillbillies or antiquated bigots,” and then follow that with your own clearly bigoted remark of “…I wondered how I’d feel if Texas was flying a ‘God Hates Fags’ flag over the state capital – as many of our leaders seem to not-so-secretly want.” You could just as easily replace that with “if the current administration was flying a ‘Gays Hate Religion’ or ‘Your Cake Or Your Livelihood’ flag over the White House — as many of our gay activists seem to not-so-secretly want.”

    So, while I agree with your premise that the statue should not be removed in order to aid society in remembering, understanding and advancing, I think it’s interesting that your thoughts also highlight the fact that bigotry will always exist, symbolized or not. Which is why the hypocrisy of those fighting to eradicate symbols or re-write history in the name of “ending racism and/or bigotry” for the cause- or victims-du-jour while revealing their own racism and bigotry in those very actions is amusing to witness.

    • Jon Anderson says

      Thanks for providing hope to the downtrodden. It’s taken you something less than 150 years to evolve into understanding slavery is/was wrong (which, for those keeping score, the bible condones). Hopefully it won’t take that many generations for your offspring to be as embarrassed by your views as the majority are today.

      • Sam Spivey says

        If you are referring to yourself as one of the downtrodden, I apologize for not offering more hope. I’m sure it must be very difficult to be a part of the victim class in America today — being able to freely express opinions while attempting to deprive those who disagree with that opinion of their livelihood, having the choice to subsist for generations on entitlement programs instead of taking responsibility for one’s actions or working to improve one’s lot in life. You know, true hardships, unlike those living under totalitarian regimes or religions in other countries.

        I was simply pointing out your hypocrisy in equating the Confederate flag with racism and bigotry while simultaneously displaying your own bigotry, demonstrating that it will never be completely eradicated no matter how many statues or symbols one seeks to destroy. By it’s very definition bigotry will always exist in some form, as we are all individuals with varying opinions and views. You presume to know what views I hold and your response of a bigoted personal attack based on your perception of those views completely proves my point.

  3. Flyamelia says

    The confederate flag is racist when used in that context. It is not racist when it’s used to honor fallen Confederate soldiers. We have lost all sense of context in America. Leave General Robert E. Lee alone.

  4. Bob Stoller says

    For the sake of historical accuracy, here are some of the reasons given by the Texas delegates to the Texas Secession Convention in 1861:

    l. Upon its entry into the Union in 1845, Texas “was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery–the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits–a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. ”

    2. “We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.”

    3. “That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding States.”

    I do not recall reading or hearing these words in any Texas or American History class when I was growing up. This is how we should remember this shameful period in our history.

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