Whistling Dixie While the Country Burns

So having a discussion today with someone who is very much in support of NOLA taking down any monuments of the Confederacy (according to this guy, that’s not ‘destruction’). I’m very much against removing any historical monuments. I don’t think visible erasure of our history is a way of dealing with that history or of healing its wounds and I’m sick of seeing people accommodating this PC agenda. I question what’s next: desecrating the dead by removing their monuments? oh wait, that’s already happened in Confederate cemeteries. 

Now I am no fan of the Confederacy. the history of slavery and human trafficking in this country makes my stomach lurch when I sit and think about it. it’s one of the most shameful periods of our history BUT it’s our history and I don’t think anything good ever came of denying one’s own history. We don’t learn by white washing and pretending things never happened, and we don’t learn by desecrating monuments to the dead.

I would be all for setting up monuments commemorating emancipation, the triumph of the Union, free black communities (NOLA had a thriving free black community since at least the eighteenth century) in the same locales but to erase history well, that leaves us with a generation that doesn’t know where it came from and so can be very easily led to where someone else thinks it should go. I’m never against adding more memorials. It’s the taking away that bothers me.

Someone asked me in one of these discussions whether we shouldn’t prioritize the needs of the living over the dead and I said absolutely not. The dead should and will always take precedence with me. A culture and a people’s worth is determined by how they tend their dead and here’s the thing, if you’re tending your dead rightly and well (which includes holding them accountable for the shit that they did), it will transform how you engage with the living. But in no world should the dead, our ancestors, take second place. Being a functioning human means being in right relationship with the ancestors, the Gods, and the land spirits and that impacts every other living interaction. We don’t achieve that by pandering to a group of PC fanatics who have no long term vision and preach only to sentiment and emotion.

If these monuments are being used by white supremacists to advance their agenda (real white supremacists, not people who refuse to feel guilty for being white), then address that, but don’t think it’s addressed by pretending that history never happened. If you don’t remember your history, you’re guaranteed to repeat it. We’re seeing that in the daily news. These monuments serve as much for warning as they do commemoration.

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Posted on May 8, 2017, in Ancestor Work, community, Misc., Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I must wonder whether your friend who wanted to “prioritize the needs of the living over the dead” has much to say about actual physical slavery happening in the world today, specifically in Muslim countries, and often racially based. One would think that would take precedence over soothing the feelings of people in this country who are trying to justify their own grievances, but who were never themselves slaves.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I could not agree more. “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it” comes to mind. Like it or not, we are shaped by our histories, and unless we embrace that, we cannot move forward.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post. 🙂

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  3. I do believe that there is a solution to the problem. These people are historical. I think that these monuments should find a new home in a museum, even a museum on the grounds of a battlefield. More context can be added to the presentation of the sculpture. I really never understood why those Military Academy cadets left, including some famous generals, calling their allegiance to the south more important than that to the United States. It is treason. The disgusting term “War of Northern Aggression” is even more so. The Charleston battery fired the first shots of the Civil War onto Fort Sumter. I lived in the south two times in my life, both times when there was active KKK activity. I dislike the south and most southerners if they are part of the ‘spin doctoring” which they still do. (disgruntled Historian)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Museums were my first thought, too. A permanent museum would allow people to view these historical monuments with important information about their historical context.

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  4. So are you against how all the Nazi era war monuments were removed by the current German gov?

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    • ganglerisgrove

      if they are monuments to commemorate the dead, yes, I would be against that. (I’d also want those monuments being used to educate. When I was in Hamburg (I think it was Hamburg), I saw a very austere monument to the young men of the city who were killed in WWI. I thought it very fitting. there is nothing there praising the war or condemning it, but a list of names and the wish that they be remembered. Would it be better for the Nazi era to be forgotten? We already have people left of center who can’t tell a Nazi from a politician with whom they disagree, who employ reductio ad Hitleram at any provocation, making a mockery of you know, actual Nazism. Maybe if we were better schooled in our history that wouldn’t happen.

      Liked by 3 people

    • I’m particularly pissed off at the destruction of works by Arno Breker. A lot of his work were not Nazi monuments and were still destroyed. Some of his sculptures were depictions of my gods. Regardless of the subversive nature of the Nazi, the destruction of this art is still iconoclastic.
      I also feel exactly the same for Nazi destroying “Degenerate Art”.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Looking at other examples, one being the protest of the Cecil Rhodes statue at Oxford. Turns out the lead student behind the protest was brought out with a 40k pound scholarship. Really shows the integrity of these loud mouths.

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  6. I took many Civil War trips around VA, W.VA.. PA. MD, NC, and SC. What the history of the Confederate monuments is illuminating. When the South finally to a position where they had money, it was the early 1900s. The Daughters of the Confederacy started putting up monuments to the leaders. Then it took off in the 1920s with the rise of the Klan and White Supremacy. That is when U.S. One was renamed the Jeff Davis Highway in response to the Lincoln Highway, already in place. In other words, many of these monuments were not for the marking of a fallen leader or soldier but was for reasserting Whiteness over Reconstruction and the mixed-race governments.

    These monuments do not commemorate history but racism. However, each area has had to grapple with this. Some remain in trenched, some adapted, some still struggling. In areas where there is a majority African-American population or a population who feels that their voices will be heard, they have been the ones who want the statues removed. They see it as a slap in the face and a symbol of what they suffered. It is not PC or SJWs that is propelling many of the statue removals but African-Americans.

    Richmond VA decided to have Arthur Ashe and Lincoln added to Monument Hill where the statues of Confederate generals are.

    Strange thing is that Robert E. Lee, himself, decried that people still remained loyal to the Confederacy after it was defeated. He tried to have people be reconciled to be a part of the Union. It was Jubel A. Early who started the Lost Cause stuff. Longstreet and Mosby both became Republicans and worked for the Union after the War. So the Confederate generals themselves were not united either.

    I had a funny experience – at one place, where A.P. Hill died, instead of a statue, we had the A.P. Hill Coin Operated Laundromat in his memory.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I live in Tallahassee and we’ve got a monument at the Battle of Natural Bridge, markers at some historic sites, and a monument to the Civil War dead of Leon County. I’ve never heard of anyone wanting them taken down.
    These statues being removed aren’t battle markers or memorials to the war dead though. I don’t think you can honor the Confederate dead and also the men who sent them to their deaths so they could continue to get rich off of slavery. A history museum seems like the right place for them.
    I would also support taking down Confederate memorials in states like Kentucky and Maryland. Those states stayed with the Union during the war and 90% of the men who died fought for the Union, but now 90% of the monuments are to the Confederacy. Keeping them up is rewriting history and dishonoring the dead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ganglerisgrove

      For me, it’s about how people chose to deal with their history — good or bad– it’s part of the story and the Story.

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