If Confederate General Robert E. Lee and President Donald J. Trump ever became friends, that friendship would come to a dramatic end after discovering their differing opinions on whether or not Civil War monuments should be displayed in today’s society.
Charlottesville, VA was turned into a storm on Friday, Aug. 11 after a series of protests erupted between white nationalists, opposing the removal of a Civil War monument, and citizens supporting the statue’s demise.
What Trump calls “beautiful,” Lee looked at as something that would only “keep open the sores of war.”
I am on Lee’s side in this debate. Although historical monuments are symbolic of the past, these Civil War monuments are attracting protesters who are glorifying the racist motives that drove the war itself — something that we should be trying to move away from as a country.
The Confederate monuments are not honoring great soldiers and heroes. In fact, they are doing quite the opposite.
W. Fitzhugh Brundage, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill history professor and department chair, writes that these monuments were constructed after the Civil War, “as Southerners put Jim Crow in place — and Northerners gave up on racial justice.”
Tearing down the monuments that honor those who were treasonous to the nation is not ignoring or erasing American history. It is simply creating an opportunity to teach and start a conversation about the truth Trump is determined to ignore.
“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You can’t change history, but you can learn from it,” Trump wrote in a tweet on Aug. 17. “Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson — who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”
Our country was not “ripped apart” because the statue was removed. Our country is “ripped apart” because of the racist attitudes that run rampant in our everyday lives.
We cannot change our nation’s history, nor can we ignore it. However, we do have the ability to create a better future by addressing the ugly actions of the past. Glorifying monuments and ignorant leaders are part of the problem.
In order to repair our torn country, the monuments should be taken down in order for society to heal and learn from the mistakes of those who came before us. These statues serve as a reminder of the past, and taking them down is the start of a solution to move forward to a better future.