Jefferson Davis, John C. Calhoun and Robert E. Lee have a lot of things in common. They all were instrumental in either the creation or oversight of the Confederate States of America. They provided the structure, ideas and strategies behind the Civil War.
More recently, however, they have become famous for the statues erected in their memory.
Statues of Confederate icons appear to be dividing the nation almost 150 years after the Civil War ended.
While we at the Editorial Board understand these statues have historical significance, we believe their negative effects outweigh their proposed benefits.
There are certain places for these memorial statues, and a town square or college campus is not one of them. We recommend the statues be removed from these areas and instead be placed in historical heritage sites and museums or be sold to private buyers.
After the protests in Charlottesville, Va., many cities throughout the South said they would remove Confederate monuments from public spaces. Officials from Memphis and Jacksonville said they were committed to removing monuments, and Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee, a Republican, also said he would remove a bust of an early Ku Klux Klan member.
However, these decisions have lead to a nationwide debate on whether removing the statues destroys American history. And as most things appear to be these days, opinions are split by party lines.
Rod Dreher of the American Conservative protested the removal of Lee’s statue in New Orleans because it ignores the fact that Lee was a complex figure, while Adam Serwer of the Atlantic contended that Lee was the leader of the rebellion against the United States and shouldn’t be seen as a hero. Even with this heated debate unsettled, 30 cities are still working to remove Confederate monuments.
This is causing controversy in the South, and groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans are arguing that radical leftists are destroying the legacy of their forefathers.
While we understand these people’s attachment to the historical importance of Confederate figures, we at the Editorial Board do not feel that these monuments need to be displayed in town squares or local government buildings. The Confederate States of America led an actual rebellion against the United States, and it is hypocritical for us to celebrate it.
The Civil War caused more American casualties than any other war. Why should the legacy of people who exacerbated this bloody crisis be celebrated?
Moreover, preserving history does not have to occur publicly in the middle of a town square. It may create the perception that a town is glorifying the values of the Confederacy, which can be damaging to minority citizens. These statues would be better suited in a museum or historical site, where they can be used for education rather than exoneration.
History is complicated, and people are never just one entity. We do not doubt that these men had more to them than just being part of the Confederacy. However, these monuments are idolizing a fallen nation with ideals we no longer believe in. The monuments should be moved, and we should learn that acknowledging history can happen without glorifying it.