If We Erase Our History, Who Are We?
When t he Dodge Charger of 20-yearold Nazi sympathizer James Alex Fields Jr., plunged into that crowd of protesters Aug. 12, killing 32-yearold Heather Heyer, Fields put Charlottesville on the map of modernity alongside Ferguson.
Before Fields ran down the protesters, and then backed up, running down more, what was happening seemed but a bloody brawl between extremists on both sides of the issue of whether Robert E. Lee’s statue should be removed from Emancipation Park, formerly Lee Park.
With Heyer’s death, the brawl was elevated to a moral issue. And President Donald Trump’s initial failure to denounce the neo-Nazi and Klan presence was declared a moral failure.
How did we get here, and where are we going?
In Maryland, demands have come for removing statues and busts of Chief Justice Roger Taney, the author of the Dred Scott decision. Statues of Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson, President Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee have been pulled down in New Orleans.
After Charlottesville, pressure is building for removal of the statues of Lee, Jackson, Davis and Gen. “Jeb” Stuart from historic Monument Avenue in Richmond, capital of the Confederacy.
Many Southern towns, in- cluding Alexandria, Virginia, have statues of Confederate soldiers looking to the South. Shall we pull them all down? And once all the Southern Civil War monuments are gone, should we go after the statues of the slave owners whom we Americans have heroized?
Gen. George Washington and his subordinate, “Light Horse Harry” Lee, father of Robert E. Lee, were slave owners, as was Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe and Andrew Jackson. Five of our first seven presidents owned slaves, as did James K. Polk, who invaded and annexed the northern half of Mexico, including California.
Jefferson, with his exploitation of Sally Hemings and neglect of their children, presents a particular problem. While he wrote in the Declaration of Independence of his belief that “all men are created equal,” his life and his depiction of Indians in that document belie this.
Another term applied to the “Unite the Right” gathering in Charlottesville is that they are “white supremacists,” a mortal sin to modernity. But here we encounter an even greater problem.
Looking back over the history of Western civilization, which we call great, were not the explorers who came out of Spain, Portugal, France, Holland and England all white supremacists?
They conquered in the name of the mother countries all the lands they discovered, imposed their rule upon the indigenous peoples, and vanquished and eradicated the native-born who stood in their way. They believed European Man had the right to rule the world.
And if being a segregation venerated in our brave new world, what do we do with Woodrow Wilson, who thought Birth of a Nation a splendid U.S. government?
Nor is a belief in the superiority of one’s race, religion, tribe and culture unique to the West. What is unique, what is an experiment without precedent, is what we are about today.
We have condemned and re- nounced the scarlet sins of the men who made America and embraced diversity, inclusivity and equality. Our new America is to be a land where all races, tribes, creeds and cultures congregate, all are treated equally, and all move ever closer to an equality of results through the regular redistribution of opportunity, wealth and power. We universal nation.”
“All men are created equal” is an ideological statement. - toric proof for it? Are we building our utopia on a sandpile of ideology and hope?
Nevertheless, on to Richmond!
Claire Meddock, 21, stands on a toppled Confederate statue Aug. 14 in Durham, North Carolina. Activists on Monday evening used a rope to pull down the monument outside a courthouse.