Earlier this summer, there was a sudden rush to finally, finally rid several Southern cities of the statues that littered them and which were memorials to the Confederate side of the Civil War. The side that lost, but that held on to a grudge that still lasts.
Most of them had been nominally erected by the widows and mothers and children of men who had marched off, but never came back. That is, granted, a sad motivation, but just behind the respectable shield of grieving for the dead was the horrible reality of what those men had died for. Those idiot boys had gone to war to protect the institution of slavery
Growing up as I did in Texas in the 1950s and 60s seemed to be the end times for sentimentality over the Civil War. The passionate,Victorian era clock-winders that I had read about or seen in movies were all gone. I went to a white elementary school, but integration had found its way into my unimportant little burg by the time I entered middle and high school. The circle of losers and nerds who comprised my friends had black members; my parents seethed that I had black friends. The century of the war ending happened the year I turned 9, and to a 9-year-old, a century is the definition of forever.
And then boom, this summer, we are suddenly back to Great Lost Era of mrpeenee’s Ninth Year. I had seen the statues and memorials and ignored them. Considering they had lost, the South had a mania for enduring no one would forget. OK. Won’t forget, got it on my to do list. Only, I never once considered what we were be excoriated to remember. I had black friends in a high school named for Robert E. Lee, the major commander of the southern forces. I had more immediate things to ignore.
So now the statues have been removed, some by work crews who had to disguise the company’s name and their own identities because the tempest over that removal was so hot. And now all that’s left behind are the bases, or plinths, they rested on. There is a much lower pitch struggle over how to deal with them.
I say leave them, now as memorials to the struggle a lot of right-minded people fought over more than a century that their generals and statesmen graced them and that they were a constant source of irritation and pain to the descendents of the slaves those men fought and died to make sure remained slaves.
Even with the monuments gone, no one is going to forget the Civil War or the guilt America bears for allowing some men to own other men in the first place. Several of the plinths are very attractive in their own right and with the statues gone, all they are is sort of sad. Leaving them standing empty is not some defiant, sore loser gesture against the fight to remove the shameful memorials but as a salute for a long, grinding fight that was finally won.
I’m proud of the people who fought that fight and congratulate them. Maybe they should have a salute for all they did. Maybe they should have a monument.