“The generation of men is like that of leaves. The wind scatters one year’s leaves on the ground, but the forest burgeons and and puts out others, as the season of spring comes round. So it is with men: on generation grows on, and another is passing away.”
-Homer, The Iliad
On May 9th, 1865 the Confederate States of America surrendered and the American Civil War ended. There are still echoes of that conflict all through out the Untied States, both in the North and South.
Growing up in Georgia, I always heard about the Civil War. I went on field trips to monuments, watched Ken Burns’ docu-series, and even saw reenactments. The conflict was never one that interested me.
I always wondered why the Confederates didn’t march on Washington D.C., because they won most military battles. Robert E. Lee was a great general and could have easily captured the city.
The South had a more genteel style to war, that ultimately was their downfall. I don’t recall General Lee attacking civilians and sacking cities.
General William T. Sherman did attack civilian targets and sacked cities along the way during his March to the Sea.
“I can make this march, and I will make Georgia howl!”
– General William T. Sherman
The Confederates did own slaves, but The Union had no slaves not because they were morally opposed to it, but because they didn’t have need for them. The South owned slaves for almost a hundred years and they did nothing. The Emancipation Proclamation was signed a year into the war, so it appears to be an afterthought.
There are no “good guys” in war, or human history in general. The good guys write the history books and conveniently leave out any atrocities they commit along the way.
Slavery and racism are wrong, but they are a part of the human condition. Slavery is still happening, even in the United States. Tearing down statues does not change that. Treating half of your country like sub-human barbarians is not going to engender loyalty, but instead incite another civil war.
Tearing down Confederate monuments is akin to claiming the Holocaust never happened. You should want to be reminded that these atrocities happened, so you don’t repeat them.
Why not destroy Roman monuments? They practically enslaved all of Europe and killed millions of people. Why not destroy the Egyptian Pyramids? They are monuments to totalitarian dictatorships. Why not torch the Sistine Chapel? Catholicism has been responsible for corrupt acts for hundreds of years. Why not bulldoze Jerusalem? Isn’t that where the Crusades happened?
It does not make you a racist to respect history and want to be reminded. History is not a pleasant walk in the park. It is the story of hardship, blood, guts, death, and despair. But, amongst all of that anguish and turmoil, is hope that we can change.