bookmark_borderStone Mountain is next target for anti-Confederate bigots

Last year I had the pleasure of visiting Stone Mountain. If you have never heard of Stone Mountain (in which case you are really missing out!), it is a mountain in Georgia featuring a huge carving of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. According to Stone Mountain’s official website, the Confederate Memorial Carving measures 90 by 190 feet, is recessed 42 feet into the mountain, and is 400 feet above the ground, making it the largest high relief sculpture in the world. The idea for the carving originated with Helen Plane of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Construction began in 1923 but ran into funding problems and disagreements between artists, organizers, and the land owners. In 1958, the mountain and surrounding land were purchased by the state of Georgia. Walter Kirkland Hancock was chosen as the new sculptor, and work resumed on the stone carving in 1964. Using thermo-jet torches, workers labored to complete the likenesses of the three Confederate leaders and their horses. A dedication ceremony was held in 1970, and finishing touches were completed in 1972.

It is a truly amazing work of art, and seeing it in person is awe-inspiring.

So, naturally, supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement are demanding that it be destroyed.

On June 16, the local branch of the NAACP organized a protest against the Memorial Carving. The president of the NAACP branch, Teresa Hardy, said: “We’re going to Stone Mountain where all of the white supremacy, racial bigotry, all of that is hidden in that mountain, so why not march there to let them know we’re not going to take it anymore.”

More recently, this past weekend, a large group of armed militia marched through Stone Mountain Park demanding the removal of the carving.

First of all, depictions of Confederate leaders are not the same thing as white supremacy or racial bigotry. But more importantly, what does Hardy mean by “we’re not going to take it anymore?” What, exactly, is her organization not going to take? The existence of a magnificent, amazing work of art? The fact that people who cherish the Confederacy have a beautiful memorial to visit? The fact that the brave heroes who fought for the Confederacy get to be remembered and honored by those who admire them? This choice of words implies that Stone Mountain’s existence causes pain or suffering somehow. But this is simply false. For anyone who has a soul, Stone Mountain and its Memorial Carving bring tremendous joy and awe, just as all beautiful works of art do. The carving’s existence inherently makes the world a better place. How a person could dislike Stone Mountain is incomprehensible to me. But if this is the case for you, then simply don’t go there! Problem solved.

What makes supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement think that they have the right to order the destruction of anything in the world that they do not like? They are not the only people in the world; other people’s wishes and preferences matter, too. Has anyone considered the feelings of people who love Stone Mountain and would be deprived of a unique and wonderful place to enjoy nature and history? Has anyone considered the decades of painstaking work that artists, designers, carvers, and other craftsmen put into this work of art? Has anyone considered the feelings of people who admire the Confederacy and would be deprived of this beautiful and moving memorial? Has anyone considered the thousands of people who died fighting for the South’s independence, and the possibility that they deserve to be remembered and honored?

It’s almost as if this movement is determined to obliterate every beautiful, magnificent, glorious, unique, different, interesting, cool, and good thing from the world. It’s as if they are striving to create as bland, homogeneous, mundane, and conformist a society as possible, a place where all cities and towns are the same and all people are alike. In short, they seem to be determined to make the world as bad a place as they possibly can. I can think of no other reason why someone would want Stone Mountain’s carving to be destroyed. There are no words in the English language that can fully capture how strongly opposed I am to this idea.

Fortunately, Georgia law protects the Memorial Carving, meaning that the law would need to be changed in order for it to be destroyed. Hopefully this never, ever happens, because the world would be immeasurably worse for it.

The author at Stone Mountain

bookmark_borderPelosi’s bigoted effort to remove Confederate statues

As part of the nationwide trend to get rid of everything that has anything to do with the Confederate States of America, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is demanding that 11 statues in the Capitol building be removed.

In a letter to the Architect of the Capitol and the Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library, Pelosi wrote:

The statues in the Capitol should embody our highest ideals as Americans, expressing who we are and who we aspire to be as a nation. Monuments to men who advocated cruelty and barbarism to achieve such a plainly racist end are a grotesque affront to those ideals. These statues pay homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed. While I believe it is imperative that we never forget out history lest we repeat it, I also believe that there is no room for celebrating the violent bigotry of the men of the Confederacy in the hallowed halls of the United States Capitol or in places of honor across the country.

The statues that Pelosi is criticizing are part of Statuary Hall, a chamber in the Capitol that displays 100 statues of historical figures, two from each state. The list is as follows: Jefferson Davis (Mississippi), James Zachariah George (Mississippi), Wade Hampton (S. Carolina), John E. Kenna (W. Virginia), Robert E. Lee (Virginia), Uriah Milton Rose (Arkansas), Edmund Kirby Smith (Florida), Alexander Stephens (Georgia), Zebulon Vance (N. Carolina) Joseph Wheeler (Alabama), and Edward White (Louisiana). More details about these individuals can be found here. In her letter, Pelosi also made a point of mentioning that Davis and Stephens were charged with treason against the United States.

By demanding the removal of these statues, Pelosi is the true bigot in this situation.

First of all, contrary to Pelosi’s claims, Confederate statues do embody the highest American ideals. The Confederacy fought for the right to secede from the Unites States and establish itself as an independent nation. Resistance to government authority is the ideal that America was founded upon; arguably the Confederacy and not the Union is the true heir to the philosophy of the American Revolution. Even if you believe that the existence of slavery in the Confederacy outweighs this, and therefore do not admire the Confederacy, that does not give you the right to demand that Confederate statues be removed. The rights of those who admire the Confederacy need to be respected, because in addition to resistance to government authority, diversity is also one of the highest American ideals. And a key part of diversity is ideological diversity.

The whole point of Statuary Hall is to showcase a diverse collection of statues representing all 50 states. I have not seen Statuary Hall in person, but when looking at photos of it, I am struck by the variations among the statues. Not only are they physically different, made of a variety of different materials, but they represent a wide range of historical figures from different time periods, backgrounds, and walks of life. They represent historical figures with a wide range of viewpoints, beliefs, and ideologies. But Pelosi is essentially saying that only historical figures with mainstream, moderate, politically correct views deserve to be honored. In other words, only those historical figures who conform to what happen to be the prevailing beliefs in 2020 deserve to be celebrated.

Contrary to Pelosi’s claim, Confederate statues do represent heritage. The fact that Pelosi does not share or value this heritage does not change this.

To call the inclusion of 11 statues of Confederate-leaning historical figures among a collection of 100 a “grotesque affront” to American ideals is, ironically, the ultimate in intolerance and bigotry. And to pointedly mention that two of the statues’ subjects were charged with treason is the ultimate in authoritarianism. It is Pelosi who is being cruel, barbaric, and hateful by declaring that there is “no room for celebrating” those who fought bravely on the losing side of a war. Demanding the removal of Confederate statues is the action of a bully with no tolerance for any views or values that differ from hers. A homogeneous collection of statues representing mainstream ideologies is the exact opposite of what America as a nation should aspire towards. But that is exactly what Pelosi is advocating. This type of mindless conformism is truly a grotesque affront to American ideals.

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.