This past week, the Robert E. Lee Confederate monument, the largest monument in the South, was removed from its peak in Charlottesville, Va. This is considered to be either a victory for the liberal agenda, or a defeat for the conservatives. Either way, it is something to behold, a monument that had stood for nearly 131 years will no longer be a sight for the public to bear witness to. It begs the question of who our heroes are, and why they should, or should not, be our heroes.
If you have grown up in certain places in the South, you may have heard the daring tales of Civil War heroes such as Harriet Tubman, the leaders at Gettysburg or perhaps, just maybe, a romantic myth attempting to glorify KKK founder, Nathan Bedford Forrest, that he was some sort of war hero who only kept slaves because slavery was deemed a ‘necessary evil.’ Any honest history undergrad (or enthusiast) would tell you that history is full of nuance, gray colors sweeping the shores during our time as a nation, but how much of what we can is all gray (no pun intended)?
Nuance for the sake of nuance is immoral and cowardice because it actively seeks to avoid answering the question of what is right and wrong. Something I had often heard growing up was how there are always other sides to the story, and while this is certainly true, not all sides deserve equal representation. The only one that deserves full representation is the side with the most evidence. In a court of law, both the defense and plaintiff/prosecution present their case, but the presiding magistrate does not throw up their hands, and proclaim that since both sides have equally strong cases, everyone must now happily coexist. This is called injustice, and justice ought to be applied when reading history.
When speaking of Confederate commanders, there is almost no room for error in their character. One can speak favorably in their military decisions, but also acknowledge that many of these men not only had a flawed perception of things like Christianity, but also in the value of human life (one can often be correlated with the other). This is not necessarily a swing at any individual, but a plea for honesty in what we study and believe. Will we stand on the sidelines and preach to our kids our heroes can do no wrong, or will we have the nerve to tell them recognize the fallacy of men?
I also implore us to answer honestly to what the Civil War was fought over. ‘States’ rights’ you say? States’ right to what? Own slaves, or to stick it to the Yankees for the heck of it? This is not to say there were not other factors involved, but they all happened to have revolved around the owning of human beings in bondage.
Jacob Murdock is a staff writer for The Times-Journal. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.