Last week, horrific events unfolded in Charlottesville, Virginia, when twenty-year-old James Alex Fields, Jr., drove a vehicle into a crowd of counter protestors at a Unite the Right Rally to protest the proposed removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee. Since that day, we’ve seen a resurgence in the Left’s desire to deface, destroy, and remove Confederate monuments across the country. The rationale behind this is a classic from the Leftists’ political playbook: the statues offend many POC and white apologists, convey messages of white supremacy, and celebrate bigotry and racism; therefore, they should be eradicated, erased, and history rewritten to force us to forget this dark era of our nation’s past.
As an historian, and as a teacher of history to future generations, I cannot stress how dangerous this line of logic is. We study history not to celebrate, but to understand. We chronicle events and trends and wars not to promote an agenda, but to avoid making the same mistakes over again. We erect monuments and preserve historical sites not to commemorate a person or event, but to remind ourselves of our triumphs over adversity and the progress humanity has made.
We do not study history to oppress anyone. And we do ourselves no favors as a country if we try to erase something from the past. What’s done is done. But rather than learn from the lessons our nation’s history with slavery has taught us, we allowed it to push us backward and trap us in the same situation we experienced over 150 years ago.
This is what happens…when an entire generation grows up not truly understanding history and is taught that feelings matter more than facts. This is what happens…when your government has too much control over you.
So here we go. Let’s talk about why these monuments of Confederate soldiers and generals should remain standing. Let’s talk about why these so-called “white supremacists” need to remain in the open, rather than turned to dust and erased from our collective memories.
Since I just know someone is going to bring this one up….. “Germany doesn’t have statues of Adolf Hitler! They don’t commemorate Nazis with monuments! It’s offensive!”
Question: Why are the concentration camps still there, then? Out in the open?
Why has Angela Merkel not burned them all to the ground and erased any memory of the sickening horrors of the Holocaust? Why have we kept the thousands upon thousands of shoes left from the victims of those atrocities, creating a mountain of them in a room in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.? Why do we have pictures of Adolf Hitler in our history books?
Because it’s part of history. And history is an invaluable teacher.
And if we’re going to eradicate physical statues, where does it end? Will we destroy buildings now, too, because they have the same architectural design as the plantation homes where slaves were forced to work from dawn to dusk? Will we bulldoze entire towns, because they were strongholds for the Confederacy during the Civil War? Will we burn down all the farmland below the line that divided the North from the South, because that was the same land slaves literally died cultivating?
One could also make the argument that these monuments are not only a part of history, but are also considered art, and are therefore expressions from the artist. “Art” is considered, according to the Oxford dictionary, the “expression or application of human creative skill.” A sculpture, bust, statue or plaque could fit very nicely into this definition, since it is most definitely an application of human skill to be able to create such a thing.
If a piece of warped metal on a pedestal can be considered “art,” so, too, can the elaborate statue of Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park. If a canvas covered in haphazard, multi-colored paint splatters can be considered “art,” so, too, can the sculpture of Justice Roger Taney in front of the State House in Annapolis, Maryland. If a wicker chair that’s been painted orange can be considered “art,” then so, too, can the bust of General Nathan Bedford Forrest in Nashville, Tennessee.
If you are “offended” by a piece of “modern art,” (I use this term incredibly loosely), the curator of that gallery isn’t going to take down that piece and destroy it. You simply move on and ignore that particular piece of art, finding one that you do enjoy. Follow the logic. Someone offended a statue of Robert E. Lee has no right to deface or destroy another artist’s work. That person has to “put up with it,” the same way I, as a Christian, must “put up with” a painting of the symbol of my faith being submerged upside down in a glass full of Andres Serrano’s urine that remains on display in a gallery in New York.
If left unchecked, the Left’s targeted censorship will only escalate until it pervades every area of societal life.
We could start censoring art and music, banning anything that could be considered offensive to anyone and virtually bringing our culture to a standstill.
We could start threatening people’s livelihoods for daring to hold an opinion that differs from the group-think mentality, c.f. Google.
We could legitimize violence and actively promote attacking others because they have beliefs that offend and disgust you.
Oh, my bad. We’re already there.
The narrative of duplicitous victimization used by the Left has become the foundation of every argument they make re: politics in the 21st century, and this narrative continues to drive blatant censorship of conservatives and morph our society into one reminiscent of China and Russia.
Why does the Left insist on doing this?
The answer is simple: because they are weak. Because they cannot fathom a world where someone has something better than them. Because they cannot handle an existence that hinges on hard work, determination, and independence. Because freedom of expression scares them. Because freedom of speech threatens them. It’s our job, then, – conservatives, and others who align with the Right – to continue moving forward without them and building the society we want. Leave them in their fear-driven mindset and refuse to resort to the same tactics they do.
Do not devolve to the level of a spoiled toddler frightened of the dark. It accomplishes nothing, and only leads to more violence.
Instead, protect our art. Protect our history. Be the kind of rebel whose words influence more than his fists. And do not let political correctness do any more damage than it already has.