Intepret the present with the past
The May 22 editorial “A new New Orleans” sensibly concluded that “there is no blanket rule that easily applies to the proper course to take” in dealing with the contentious issue of what to do with Confederate statues and memorials. But it did offer local and state governments a sensible, balanced process to follow. Rather than destroying them in the hopes that the repugnant ideals that spawned them will be forgotten, it suggested relocating some and updating others with “a healthy dose of context.”
Judging past ideals and memorials by today’s social standards prevents us from understanding how we changed and became who we are today. Context provides the key to understanding that process.
In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln reminded Congress that “we cannot escape history.” Nor should we want to. Lincoln knew that our todays and yesterdays are the blocks we use to build the future. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee understood this, too, and concluded that “it is history that teaches us to hope.” History holds the legacy of both men and gives us the privilege of understanding and evaluating each of them. Gordon Berg, Gaithersburg The writer is past president of the Civil War Round Table of the District of Columbia.