Saturday, August 19, 2017

Tear 'em down?

There is, you may noticed, some controversy over the Confederate statues that are found all over the South (having lived there, I can tell you every town has one), and even the US Capitol.

I'm 57 and do not recall any uproar over the statues until quite recently. So-have we suddenly come to some profound new understanding of what the statues' continued existence means? Or, do the statues, which denote an unavoidable fact of history that has had an enormous impact on life both North and South, lack in themselves any particular moral meaning or message as regards the justness of the Confederate cause as such?

As you may have guessed by the way I have framed the question, I am not persuaded that removing the statues amounts to anything more than virtue-signaling. The monuments may have been erected to, in various cases, celebrate slavery, honor the "valiant" fight against Northern oppression, or even (most likely I imagine) to merely commemorate the dead and wounded of virtually every Southern town.

I think the most important question, though, is-what do the statues mean NOW? Are they treated as shrines to The Lost Cause? Do people gather around them to ponder the halcyon days of the antebellum South? No-the memorials just note that the War we read about in books and on Wikipedia really did happen, and that it had a real effect on the towns and cities they're found in.

Ultimately, I ask: Why didn't we hang Jefferson Davis? We didn't hang him because you allow the defeated some measure of dignity, and allow history, rather than brute force, to settle issues where possible.

We all know the Confederate cause was a stupid one, in that it was both economically backwards and required the continuation of an evil institution. The point hardly needs to be reinforced.

4 comments:

  1. I personally wished there was more commentary on how the actual residents of Charlottesville felt about the statue. If the statue was in philadelphia id say the same thing. And if it was considered offensive or advocating for an evil institution, then, by all means take it down. (If this was covered on tv news id be curious about what was said. Cant afford cable right now.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The problem is, does considering something offensive give someone the right the stifle speech, or tear down a monument? The problem is that there are no commonly held values in the US to refer to, to even begin to rationally discuss such a question now.

      Yes, if a given town decides to take down a statue, after deciding so democratically, I'd have no objection. But the balkanization the nation under racial lines, a project pursued just as earnestly by much of the (the non-Bernie) Left as by the so-called alt-right, puts us in a state of ever-declining civic cooperation and unity, and so everybody's at each other's throats. Simply arguing that election results should be respected, regardless of what thinks of Donald Trump, whom I didn't vote for, gets you more nastiness on twitter than calling Mohammed a false prophet would. Very good piece by Rod Dreher on identity politics here: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/the-storm-before-the-storm-weimar-america-liberalism/

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