History: The good, the bad and the ugly
Not long ago we began hearing and reading about the strong opposition to public buildings in the south flying a confederate flag. Some were adamant that they come down, while staunch southerners were loud and clear: Leave them alone.
Lately, the focus seems to have moved to the historic monuments of confederate leaders during the Civil War, and again, southerners are divided with African-Americans among the most vocal, arguing that these monuments represent pro-slavery sentiments.
Those who support keeping these monuments right where they are maintain that most of them honor Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and other southern military leaders who distinguished themselves during the War Between the States. They don’t see them as pro-slavery monuments, but rather as symbols of the proud south and all the men who fought so bravely. Several southern cities are still deciding which route to go, take them down or leave them up, while others have already removed them from public lands.
While we can understand where both sides are coming from, we’re not sure where we draw the line on symbols which remind us of slavery. As someone on “PBS News Hour” pointed out recently, the Jefferson Memorial in Washington honors one of our country’s leaders who once owned slaves. Is the monument offensive? How about our first President, George Washington, who is honored on our one dollar bill and on our quarter. He, too, owned slaves.
Apparently, there are some 700 monuments nationwide, mostly in the south, honoring military and political leaders from our past who are linked to slavery.
While the debate rages on over memorials honoring those who were associated with a part of our past we’d like to forget, if we look back on history, there are lots of other instances in which we’ve paid tribute to men and women who weren’t always perfect role models. Attitudes, ideals, philosophies and just plain old separation of right from wrong change from one generation to another. We can’t really hide from our history.