I moved to Richmond, Virginia, from the North 43 years ago this month, and it only recently hit me that I’ve been here nearly one-third of the time the Civil War has been over, and I’ve been reminded of it nearly every blessed day and resented it every time.
After the Charleston shootings, words can’t describe how thrilled I was to see some Southern states begin rethinking the preservation of their blockheaded “heritage” and getting with the 21st century.
In Alabama, without asking anybody’s permission, the Republican governor ordered four Confederate flags removed from the statehouse grounds. Amazing!
In VIRGINIA, our Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, ordered Confederate flag license plate issued only to the Sons of Confederate Veterans discontinued and all such plates in use (1,600) replaced. Hallelujah!
The plates were a small gesture, yet the SCV have vowed to fight it — even after the exact case in Texas recently went to the Supreme Court and LOST. (That old, “The South shall rise again!” mentality.)
OK, the flag once stood for the Glorious Cause, but the SCV refuse to acknowledge it’s been hijacked by racists, and racism is what it stands squarely for today.
Some Southerners are wringing their hands over the flag, saying it’s a slippery slope, and what comes down next?
Richmond has a big statue of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, on Monument Avenue (more on that in a sec) that just got defaced twice. One guy spray-painted an “L” on it to signify “Loser” (which was pretty “Lame”). Someone else painted “Black Lives Matter.”
Monument Avenue is a beautiful tree-lined boulevard with a wide green median, lined with lavish, historic homes and dotted with impressive statues of prominent Civil War figures like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson on horseback.
It also has one odd, puny statue of black Richmond native and tennis great, Arthur Ashe, who’s posed as if lobbing a book to a bunch of sawed-off kids. Trust me, getting him on Monument Avenue caused everyone no end of angst.
Anyway, people are worried these statues will get torn down à la Saddam Hussein in Baghdad.
If that happens, are statues of slave owners George Washington and Thomas Jefferson safe?
I’d say the distinction is that the statues haven’t been embraced as racist symbols. They’re of people who played key roles in significant events in our past.
Let’s leave the statues of major historical figures alone. They don’t bother anybody, and in most cases they’re works of art that attract tourists and may be a comfort to some.
But statues and busts of relatively minor figures, like Nathan Bedford Forrest who helped start the KKK, belong in museums as curiosities.
Even though all the funerals in Charleston are over, I hope the South keeps progressing toward accepting that the United States is one country again, founded on the principle that all men are created equal — in spite our many, many lapses and some people’s lingering refusal to face it.