By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT – As the descendant of a Confederate soldier and as a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, I have what I consider a vested interest in the Confederate monuments issue that has been raging ever since Dylan Roof decided to walk into a church in South Carolina and kill people. For the most part, nobody cared one iota whether there was a Confederate battle flag in front of the courthouse or a Robert E. Lee statue in the town square – in whatever city. There were a few exceptions, but in general, nobody cared.
I’ve written on this issue at length both on this blog and my own so I won’t reiterate all of that (there’s plenty of reading material at that link), but let’s look at the state of things at this point.
Over at Hot Air, Jazz Shaw notes the resurrection of the Confederate battle flag at the Walhalla Confederate Memorial in South Carolina. This memorial is on private property and is maintained by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Shaw is not very confident that the fact that this is on private property will silence the critics and I’m afraid he’s probably right. We seem to have lost all sense of reason on this issue.
Meanwhile, in Charlottesville, VA, another monument controversy is ongoing. The city council there is debating whether to remove the Robert E. Lee statue from Lee Park. I guess the next vote will be to change the name of the park?
The Robert E. Lee statue was built in 1924. Legal Analyst Scott Goodman says this might turn out to be more than just the state trying to enforce a state law.
“But also there’s going to be private lawsuits,” said Goodman. “The heirs of Mr. McIntire, who donated the land and donated the statues for a trust to be able to be kept in perpetuity. People can sue who are affected in that way, family members and so forth, to enforce the trust, to enforce the original agreement that brought the statues to that park to begin with.”
In New Orleans, activists on both sides of the issue are still awaiting the decision from the Fifth Circuit regarding the removal of four monuments in the city.
In Alabama, State Senator Gerald Allen plans to introduce the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act in hopes of preserving these endangered monuments.
In Florida, “Old Joe” has been standing on the grounds of the Alachua County Administration building in Gainesville since 1904. The statue of the Confederate soldier is now facing removal and perhaps donation to a local history museum. As one activist said, “It’s a symbol of slavery.”
Perhaps to him it is, but to others it’s a symbol of the sacrifices of ancestors who fought to defend hearth and home. The overwhelming majority of the soldiers who fought for the Confederacy did not own slaves and felt they were fighting for states’ rights. Why does one perception of a symbol get to override another? Why are we all so offended all of the time?
And in perhaps the lamest argument ever proffered against a monument, there’s this:
David Gold of Gainesville, an Army veteran who was an infantry soldier during the Vietnam War, said Confederate sympathizers should not be allowed to have a statue in downtown Gainesville.
“You Confederates lost the war, and you don’t get to have a statue in the middle of our small downtown,” Gold said.
Seriously? I just can’t even…
What is now seemingly a perpetual protest against anything related to the Confederacy seems to be having the opposite effect and unintended consequences for the protesters. Membership in heritage organizations such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy is rising. These and other organizations are fighting to preserve these monuments and their heritage. As in Walhalla, many of these organizations are now placing flags and monuments on private property. In Louisiana, one chapter of the Sons of Confederate veterans has purchased a plot of land along I-49 and will soon place a large flagpole and raise a Confederate battle flag.
In Orange, Texas, near the Texas/Louisiana border, the SCV is constructing the largest Confederate memorial ever built:
In Orange, a small east Texas city on the Louisiana border, the privately funded Confederate Memorial of the Wind is nearing completion. With 13 large Greek columns and 26–32 Confederate flags, it will be the largest Confederate monument built in a century, according to the SCV.
Where this will all end we can only surmise, but perhaps it’s time for us to all figure out a way to live together peacefully, to respect each other despite our differences, and to focus on more important things. This is a slippery slope that has no end to the iconography that can and will be removed once this debate clears the courts, should it be successful.
In the end we are all Americans. The Civil War is over.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.