Confederate statues and what they mean

A history professor once commented that rarely do the defeated erect statues to their defeats. On a personal level, do you display mementos of your failures — of your divorce, or bankruptcy, or dropping out of high school or college, or the time you got arrested when you were a teen?

A history professor once commented that rarely do the defeated erect statues to their defeats. On a personal level, do you display mementos of your failures — of your divorce, or bankruptcy, or dropping out of high school or college, or the time you got arrested when you were a teen?

If you think back to major defeats, do the French commemorate the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo? How about the disastrous defeat of the British at Gallipoli during World War I? The Turks might have set up a monument to their victory, but not the British.

Do the Germans commemorate and honor their defeats in World War I and World War II with statues? For them these wars are a badge of shame that Germans avoided talking much about for more than a generation.

While Americans commemorate both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, it is not to point our victories. Instead it is to mourn the dead. Contrasted with the enormous monument to our victory in World War II in Washington D.C., those two war memorials pale in size and scope. There is a reason for that.

People don’t like to remember their defeats. Why, then, are there more than 1,500 statues to Confederate leaders scattered throughout the South on public property, with even a few in the North?

Interestingly, these Confederate statues were not erected immediately after the war. Most were set up on public property during the era of Jim Crow — legalized segregation of the races in two different eras: around 1915-1920 and in the 1950s and 1960s, according to an article titled, “Most Confederate Monuments weren’t Built Until the Era of Jim Crow” by Caroline Hallemann in an August 15, 2017 in “Town and Country”.

During the period 1915-20 Americans were reeling from the death and destruction wrought by World War I. After the war, many Americans turned inward, trying to keep out immigrants with new anti-immigration laws. During this period the KKK experienced a major resurgence, and the lynchings of blacks increased.

The second period for Confederate statue building took place during the 1950s and 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement.

It seems these statues have been constructed, not to honor America’s fallen soldiers of the Civil War, but to commemorate and remind both whites and blacks of segregation, and the times in our history when black rights were violently resisted by Southerners. They were erected to commemorate white supremacy.

There was a historical revisionist movement that arose in the South after the Civil War in 1865. It was called, “The Cult of the Lost Cause”. The goal of this group was to rewrite history to separate the Civil War from the issue of slavery.

That’s why there are so many statues of Confederate generals like Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, according to an article called, “Why Are Hundreds of Confederate Statues Still Standing?” by David A. Love in “The Grio”. The goal was to shift the focus from slavery as the major cause of the war to the struggle of the South to succeed against overwhelming odds. These are noble goals for all humans, but not when the truth about the evils of slavery was obscured in the process.

According to an article in “USA Today”, thirty-five Confederate statues have been erected since 2000 in North Carolina. African-Americans understand the symbolism of these statues because they represent white supremacy and Jim Crow. No wonder they want to destroy them 152 years after the end of the Civil War. No wonder many whites object to their destruction for the same reasons.

War statues are set up to commemorate victories, not losses. These Confederate monuments are meant to show that, while the South lost the Civil War, their hearts and attitudes were neither changed nor defeated in the process. For many in this nation, the war over race is still continuing. The new battlefield is whether statues will remain or be removed.

More in Opinion

Maybe it’s time Congress takes back its power

The Constitution gives Congress the most power of the three branches of government.

Poking dead things with sticks

They don’t mince words when they call it a “crawl space,” do they?

America is denying three hard truths

There are three major hard truths that our current government has been denying with great vigor: The Mueller Russia-U.S. Presidential election connection investigation, the war in Afghanistan, and the growing national deficit.

Promote the common good by ensuring individual liberty

Citizens following their passions and dreams improve the lot for all.

The three personas of President Trump

There’s Teleprompter Trump, Raw Meat Trump and Twitter Trump.

Attitudes change on farming non-native salmon

Their warnings fell on deaf ears, but the tables have turned on the fish farming industry in Washington.

Voting yes on levies means investing in our kids’ future

We are White River graduates. Our parents are White River graduates. Our siblings are White River graduates, and our kids will one day be White River graduates.

Voting for the levy with make a major #impact for our schools

I have four children in Enumclaw public schools and they all benefit from programs that are supported by the renewal of the operational levy.

Great schools mean great communities

As former elected School Board Member, State Legislator and King County Judge, we understand the importance of educating all children.

Political soap opera won’t end until midterm elections

Democrats and Republicans in Congress, as well as President Trump, have all taken gambles that will shape the November midterms.

A small act of kindness can make a big impact | SoHaPP

Join SoHaPP’s book group this February to discuss “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio. Don’t have the book? Check it out at the Enumclaw Library or visit The Sequel.

Vote ‘yes’ on replacement Education Programs levy

As a high school senior that has spent the entirety of my school life in Enumclaw, I know we have to take it upon ourselves to ensure the efficiency and inclusiveness of our school system.