[Editor’s Note: This post reflects the opinion of the writer and should not be interpreted as the editorial position of CandysDirt.com.]
I lived in Dallas for at least 10 years when I asked someone, “Who is Lee Park named after?” I assumed it was a great city forefather.
Robert E. Lee, I was told; the man who surrendered to Union troops in the bitter War Between the States, the only civil war in U.S. history.
Now, a movement that is growing like a snowball rolling down a mountainside — and crescendoed Saturday night at an anti-hate rally reportedly attended by thousands in front of Dallas City Hall — wants our city to rid itself of Lee Park’s eponymous statue. Duke University removed their statutes yesterday. However, this is also not an overnight movement: some Dallas City Council members have been working on a removal since last April.
I’m not sure if changing the name of the park will follow. The statue was built in Dallas during the Depression in 1936, when the Civil War was well over. Though the war ended, deeply rooted racism was not wiped out with Lee’s unconditional surrender at Appomatox Courthouse in 1865.
I’m not a native Southerner, so I have to wonder why the statue was erected in the first place. This is not Lee’s hometown; he was a native of Virginia. After Virginia, Texas has the largest collection of Robert E. Lee monuments in the nation.
Why look up to a man who fought to let human beings own other human beings?
And last week, Jennifer Staubach Gates, City Councilwoman in District 13, who is making a lot of mayoral-like noise, wrote her conservative, wealthy constituents that the statue must come down:
My office has received a number of inquiries about the removal of Confederate statues in the City of Dallas, so I want to be clear on my position.
I strongly support the removal of these statues. Symbols of white supremacy, neo-Nazis, the KKK or other hate groups are unacceptable and must be removed from public spaces that serve all of our citizens, including our public schools. The issue should not be whether or not they are removed, but rather the process of how they are removed, and I look forward to an open dialog on moving forward.
The sooner we complete this process and remove these unacceptable symbols in public spaces, the stronger we will be as a City. If you have questions about this issue or thoughts on the process, please feel free to contact my office.
There was a bayonet in our Illinois basement with my paternal grandfather’s name etched on it. Apparently, he got it from his grandfather, who, I was told, fought in the Civil War for the Union. Unfortunately, my grandfather died right before I was born, so I never got the whole story.
The American Civil War was one of the bloodiest wars in history, and it was a fight for economic power. Owning slaves enabled tobacco, cotton, and other plantation economies to be highly lucrative. On a recent trip to Cuba, I learned that Cuba was one of the last countries to shed slavery because of the sugar plantations: owners needed cheap labor, as they always have.
The Civil War also saw a dramatic shift in war tactics from conflicts of the past. It was the beginning of the end of the edged weapons that had dominated warfare. In the Civil War, fighting moved from the close-range, melee-on-the-ground battle to medium-range shootouts and long-range artillery duels.
But they still issued swords and bayonets in the 1860s.
I firmly do not believe in rewriting history, because the purpose of history is to learn from our predecessors’ mistakes and, hopefully, not repeat them. But does a man whose movement was defeated still get to be immortalized as a hero?
To me, Union-born, Robert Edward Lee is a loser, though William Murchison, a conservative former editorial writer for the Dallas Morning News, believes Lee was a remarkable man:
At war’s end he wished nothing more and nothing less than to bind up the terrible wounds caused by four years of bloody conflict. He knew what had gone wrong. He wished that things might be right again for a united American people.
Murchison tells us that Lee became a conciliator once the war was over, telling Southern men to abandon all opposition, to regard the United States as their country, and to labor for peace and harmony and better understanding. He reversed himself, much as he did when he surrendered at the very place where he said he would never surrender. The Union prevailed, and I don’t want us to forget it because anyone who tries to slip into the hideous barbaric nature of man (that, I think, resides in all of us), needs to know they are going to lose, again and again:
“Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good. Let us therefore study the incidents in this as philosophy to learn wisdom from and none of them as wrongs to be avenged.”
Abraham Lincoln (in the context of The American Civil War of 1861 to 1865)
I am concerned about Dallas real estate that surrounds Lee Park — some of the most exquisite high rises in the city. Turtle Creek is our luxury condo row.
And while it may not be a bad idea to take time to not just study the removal of these Confederacy relics, but to discuss openly what we should do, as Mayor Rawlings advocates, I personally don’t think we have time. I think the statues honoring these heroes of a long-obsolete Confederacy should go. Take it to a museum where it will be protected and maintained and used as a lesson in American History.
“I think we should keep the horse, but take Lee off it,” says Scott Carlson with Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s. “I think we need a statute of Maya Angelou and perhaps some children, to show how Dallas has progressed. We are a city, after all, that knows a whole lot about healing.”
That we are, that we are.
Plus, Lee Park is surrounded by some of the most beautiful high rise properties in the city. If the statute stays up another three months, could that hurt property values? What do you think?