To the editor:
I had the privilege of growing up in Fayetteville, where the Eagle Bulletin was an important element in the fabric of my life and the community, all of which helped instill in me a deep sense of moral integrity. Over the years, I have always turned to the Eagle Bulletin, first with a print subscription, later, with the online edition, to keep up with the news from my old hometown and the high values I associate with it. As such, I was deeply shocked and disturbed when I read the recent editorial by Kathy Hughes entitled: “General Robert E. Lee – Why he deserves recognition.”
Needless to say, the essay is tremendously wrong on many levels, ranging from the political to the historical to the moral. For the sake of brevity I will focus on a few key points.
Confederate leaders such as Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis were traitors, pure and simple. If organizing political secession and physically taking up arms against the United States government and fellow citizens is not a working definition of treason, then the word itself has no meaning. Just as importantly, it is critical to remember what they really fought for: the cause of white supremacy. That cause continued its campaign long after the military conflict ended, in the halls of Congress, in history books, in Southern communities and even on movie screens. The basic principle was horrifyingly simple: legitimizing the Confederacy and the cause of white supremacy in the eyes of the nation while terrorizing newly freed slaves and their descendants down through the years, including the maintenance of a brutal apartheid-style system of segregation.
Despite their monument efforts of historical revisionism we know, of course, that nothing could be further from the truth. The African slave trade was one of the greatest crimes against humanity in history, a war of genocide waged against an innocent race. While it is true that many elements of the country’s political economy benefited from slavery in the early years of America’s history, it was one geographical area that built a feudal, barbaric socio-economic system based on slave labor. The deodorant power of a thousand “Gone With the Winds” could never remove this moral stench.
The calls to remove the statues dedicated to Confederate leaders that permeate the South are the latest front in this war over the legacy of the Civil War and the forces of white supremacy which haunt this land to this day. The statues, street names, Confederate flags and other public markers commemorating Confederate leaders and the Confederacy cause were erected, for the most part, during specific historical periods when white supremacy was being seen as being under attack from forces inside and outside the South. They were intended to rally those who believed in white supremacy, show defiance to the federal government and instill fear in African Americans rising up for their rights. For those who may view the statues as harmless public symbols or well-intentioned mini history lessons, ask yourself this: What would we say about far-right forces in, say, Bavaria, who wanted to put up public statues of Heinrich Himmler, Adolph Eichmann and Rudolph Hoess in the name of German heritage?
Of course the Confederate statue should come down forthwith. Perhaps they should be replaced with markers commemorating the victims of white supremacy, those who were the victims of lynchings, mob violence, government-sanctioned brutality or who lived under the day-to-day oppressions, large and small, of Jim Crow. Perhaps the statues should be placed in museums, where they can be viewed in full context. Perhaps they should be melted down, and then sold off, the proceeds going to pay reparations. Perhaps then we, as a nation, will finally achieve that “beloved community” the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King spoke so eloquently of.
Richard T. Doyle
Flanders, New Jersey
Nov 19, 2017
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