Lose the Confederate Flag, Keep the Statues

July 2, 2015

By Karen

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.


The South Finally Gets Real

June 23, 2015

By Cole

In my nine lives, I never thought I’d see the South accept the fact that the Civil War is over, that most of us are sick of hearing about it already, and that the Confederate flag has become nothing but the American Swastika.

It must be a real punch in the gut to Dylann Roof to see that massacring nine innocent black strangers didn’t start a new race war, but gave blacks and whites reason to bond. And that bonding comes thanks to the victims’ families, who displayed superhuman grace and forgiveness when they were asked to tell Roof what they think of him.

Their utter refusal to take his hate-bait freed whites to finally admit that their obsolete flag belongs in a museum — not atop or near any government building that purports to represent all citizens.

Hot as it is around here, we’ve now got a snowball rolling downhill. Mississippi is thinking twice about the Confederate stars and bars in its state flag. Tennessee may remove a bust of Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest from its statehouse.

Even Walmart is pulling all Confederate-themed merchandise from its shelves. Let’s hope other retail chains follow. If racist punks with an imaginary axe to grind want to rock that rebel look, let them sew it or draw it themselves.

May this phenomenal progress continue until mentioning the Civil War in a way that implies it was anything but a horrible, embarrassing mistake labels the speaker an ignorant bigot.

Certainly, the South can keep laying flowers on the graves of its Confederate dead. It can even admire the bravery of those who gave their lives. But it can also have the decency to admit they died in a self-serving attempt to continue degrading and exploiting people who had done nothing to deserve such treatment, and any claim to the contrary is just revisionist thinking.

It’s time for the South to free itself from the shackles of its history so everyone can feel welcome here — even Karen.

 


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