bookmark_borderGood news and bad news on General Lee

Statue Robert E. Lee Richmond.JPG
Robert E. Lee Statue (photo by Martin Falbisoner via WikiMedia)

This past week a judge ruled that the state of Virginia can remove the huge, magnificent statue of General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue in Richmond. A group of homeowners sued to stop Governor Ralph Northam’s plan to take down the beautiful statue, but the judge dismissed their lawsuit. Lee is currently the last Confederate statue standing on Monument Ave; the city tragically removed the rest of the sculptures that gave the street its name earlier this year.

The fact that people actually exist who want this statue to be removed remains incomprehensible. This is another step in the disgraceful quest to strip the world of everything beautiful, magnificent, unique, artistic, and distinctive, to create a society of conformity and nothingness, and to trample on anyone who does not share the majority view. Do these individuals think that all food should be required to undergo a process that removes its taste and texture and turns it into gruel? Do they think that Walt Disney World should be razed so that the land can be turned into a giant parking lot? Do they think that all clothing should be banned and people required to spend their entire lives naked? I believe that these things are analogous to removing Confederate statues, and equally senseless and wrong.

Northam called the ruling “one step closer to a more inclusive, equitable, and honest Virginia,” and Attorney General Mark Herring described it as “one step closer to finally bringing down this relic of our racist past and moving forward as a diverse, inclusive, welcoming community.” Nothing could be further from the truth than these statements. First of all, the statue is not racist. Second, condemning and erasing all historical figures not deemed to be perfect according to the prevailing norms of 2020 is the exact opposite of inclusion and diversity. And third, completely disregarding the preferences of those who admire and cherish this statue is the exact opposite of being equitable. 

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Unveiling of the Robert E. Lee statue, May 29, 1890

The statue of Robert E. Lee that all these bullies find so horrible and offensive was sculpted in France by acclaimed artist Antonin Mercie, who was known as the “unrivaled master of the chisel.” It was commissioned in 1876 by the Lee Monument Association and was based on a painting by German-American artist Adalbert Vlock. Several bronze pieces were cast separately before being assembled. The completed statue was exhibited in Paris and then shipped to Richmond, where 10,000 people helped to pull it to its final location: a traffic circle at the intersection of Monument Avenue and Allen Avenue. The statue was finally unveiled on May 29, 1890. In 2007, the statue was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The figure of Lee stands 14 feet tall, and the entire statue, including the horse and the base, is 60 feet tall. Interestingly, the horse does not represent Lee’s faithful steed, Traveller, but instead is a generic horse with “ideal” proportions. 

How could someone think that the city of Richmond, the state of Virginia, or the world would be improved by removing this statue? The actions of the governor, attorney general, and presiding judge, as well as all those who support the ruling, demonstrate a complete disregard for General Lee, those who honor his memory, the artist and sculptor of the statue, and all those who worked to create it and bring it to Richmond. 

There is a tiny shred of good news, however: the judge stayed the ruling pending appeal. This means that Lee will remain standing until the plaintiffs’ appeal is heard, which will happen at some point next year. With Virginia’s gubernatorial election happening next November, there is a chance that the statue will remain in place until there is a new governor, who might possibly allow it to stay.

bookmark_borderNew Virginia laws are the opposite of diversity and inclusion

Last month, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed new laws giving cities and towns the power to remove Confederate monuments and beginning the process of replacing the statue of Robert E. Lee in the U.S. Capitol.

“These laws make Virginia more equitable, just, and inclusive,” he said. “These monuments tell a particular version of history that doesn’t include everyone. In Virginia, that version of history has been given prominence and authority for far too long.”

State Senator Mamie Locke, who sponsored the bill to let cities remove monuments, voiced similar sentiments: “Virginia’s Confederate monuments were erected as symbols of a dangerous Jim Crow era. It is past time we told a more complete story of our history and work to build a Commonwealth that values everyone – no matter who you are.”

Delegate Delores McQuinn, who sponsored the House version of the bill, said, “Today marks an important step towards a more equitable and welcoming Commonwealth. Virginia’s history is difficult and complex, and it is important that we tell the full and true story of our past 400 years. These new laws will make our Commonwealth better.”

And Dr. Janice Underwood, the state’s Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, said “For more than 400 years, we’ve consciously oppressed and celebrated painful parts of Virginia’s past at the expense of those who are haunted by it the most. With these laws we are charting a new path for our Commonwealth – one that begins to tell a more complete story of who we are and honors our diversity as our greatest strength.”

The truth, however, is the exact opposite. The sentiments voiced by these politicians completely ignore the fact that those who admire Confederate leaders are also people, and their views and preferences also matter. Getting rid of Confederate monuments completely disregards the views of those who enjoy these statues and admire the soldiers and leaders whom the statues represent.

There are numerous legitimate reasons to admire Confederate leaders – their bravery, their sense of honor, their military skill, their loyalty to their home states, and the fact that they fought against a powerful federal government, just to name a few. The Confederacy was not merely about slavery, and the statues are not symbols of racism. They are symbols of people from history, who have both positive and negative attributes just like all people do. Lots of people don’t like the Confederacy or its leaders, and that’s fine. They have every right to lobby for the creation of statues of historical figures they do admire. They do not, however, have a right to lobby for the removal of statues they do not like. That is not fair to the people who like these statues and the historical figures they represent.

Unfortunately, the viewpoint that the Confederacy and everyone associated with it was bad, is the popular, politically correct viewpoint today. That does not make it right. To get rid of Confederate statues is to state that the popular, politically correct viewpoint is the only legitimate viewpoint there is. This completely excludes anyone with dissenting views. This is the exact opposite of making Virginia more equitable, just, welcoming, and inclusive. It is the opposite of diversity. It is the opposite of valuing everyone. In short, these laws allowing the removal of Confederate statues do the opposite of what the politicians who sponsored and signed the laws claim. They make Virginia, and America, a worse and less tolerant place.

bookmark_borderDOJ stands up for religious freedom

On Chincoteague Island, Virginia, the Lighthouse Fellowship Church is suing Governor Ralph Northam after he threatened the pastor with jail time or a $2,500 fine. The pastor’s offense? Holding a Palm Sunday service which was attended by 16 people, spaced apart in a church with a capacity of 293 people.

According to Fox News, the Department of Justice is coming to the church and pastor’s defense.

“The Commonwealth of Virginia has offered no good reason for refusing to trust congregants who promise to use care in worship in the same way it trusts accountants, lawyers, and other workers to do the same,” said a DOJ statement.

“As important as it is that we stay safe during these challenging times, it is also important for states to remember that we do not abandon all of our freedoms in times of emergency,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider. “Unlawful discrimination against people who exercise their right to religion violates the First Amendment, whether we are in a pandemic or not.”

Right on. The existence of a pandemic does not make people’s fundamental rights and freedoms disappear.

Attorney General Bill Barr had indicated earlier that he and his department would consider supporting individuals and organizations suing state governments over coronavirus-related restrictions. I am glad that he is following through and taking a stand against authoritarian state governments.