Monuments of Our History, What to Do?
By. Raimondo Graziano
In the wake of recent unrest that has swept the nation a question has arisen as to the importance, relevance and the very existence of our national monuments, and of the question of monuments to the confederacy. In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd a whirlwind of anger, pent up after months of isolation and distance from others, with only our thoughts and introspection to temper our troubled minds, a tempest of anger and vitriol has washed over the nation and has become a turning point, becoming so much more than the man. In just over a month, a nation has become gripped in unrest across the country – from protests to demonstrations, to riots and looting – the country is experiencing an unraveling. We have seen the deployment of federal troops to cities across the country, we have seen the national guard descend upon Washington, and we have seen a backlash to the police forces that riddle the country. In short we have seen a moment of reckoning in motion. A nation questioning itself, questioning who we are as a country, and perhaps violently reacting to the truth of some of the harsh realities of existing in this country today. A virulent backlash to a history which we are beginning to reckon with, a history that is not entirely as picturesque as our collective upbringing would have us believe.
We have to walk a fine line between admonishing our history for its wrongs, and praising it and singing of its glory with abandon. If we are going to work to reconcile the wrongs of our past, we cannot actively work to foment its erasure. We must firstly understand our history, and recognize the inherent flawed nature of the world and the men who helped to forge it. There is a major difference however in the erection of a statue of Washington and the erection of a statue of Davis. One is an American, the father of the nation, who yes, was a slave owner. We all today can be in agreement that the institution of slavery is an abhorrent wrong.
However, the ideals that Washington represented transcend the truth of the man, Washington is our history. To begin to construct a nation of liberty for all, takes generations. And the fullest liberation of a people takes time. Washington in his ideals reflected this, though the reality of his day, fought against it. Washington said “As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.” On the other hand, the other is a portrait of racism and a picture of an American cancer, that of the treasonous Confederacy. A collection of states which severed its ties to the union in order to preserve the institution of slavery. At that moment they forfeited their rights as Americans. They choose enslavement and misery, over the promise of a higher ideal. The ideals of Davis highlight the moral bankruptcy of the man, Davis is the antithesis of what this country idealistically represents. The truth of Davis is he did not strive for a higher ideal, he settled for the abhorrence of slavery and justified it. To quote Davis “My own convictions as to negro slavery are strong. You cannot transform the negro into anything one-tenth as useful or as good as what slavery enables them to be.”
There is credence in tearing down the monuments erected in commemoration of the Confederacy. They are monuments to rebellion, to treason and to the institution of slavery. The confederacy is indeed apart of American history – as a combatant, a separatist breakaway nation deserving of no grand adulation. It is a lesson to be learned from, in right and wrong. The moral and immoral. Our mistake has been allowing the glorification of the Confederacy for nearly a one hundred years. In short – Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt. These are men of this country. Where they flawed? Yes, as you and I are. But where they empathically for the progress towards our highest ideals, the highest ideals of this country? Absolutely. The same cannot be said of the Confederacy. Down with Davis, and every flag and every monument to the greatest cancer that to this day plagues the progress of our country forward.