Sign the Care2 petition. Confederate Symbolism: Tear Down America’s Heritage of Hate
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Before he was America’s most famous traitor, Benedict Arnold earned a reputation for bravery and leadership as a high-ranking officer in the Continental Army. Of his many accomplishments, he helped win the first American victory of the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Fort Ticonderoga, where he surprised a sleeping British garrison, captured the fort and obtained much needed artillery for use in future battles.
Arnold was seriously wounded twice in battle, had his horse shot out from under him and nearly lost his leg. Refusing to allow amputation, his leg was crudely set, leaving it 2 inches shorter. After a short time convalescing, he returned to Valley Forge to the cheering of his men.
Arnold’s victory at the battle of Saratoga was instrumental in winning French support for the war, which ensured the colonist’s path to ultimate liberation from the British aristocracy. The French supplied 85% of the gunpowder for Continental Army, so, it’s safe to say, without Benedict Arnold, the war would have been lost.
There is only one monument to Benedict Arnold in the United States – the statue of a boot at Saratoga National Park with an inscription reading, “To the most brilliant soldier of the Continental army.” Commemorating the injury that ended his career on the battlefield, nowhere does the monument bear his name. You see, we don’t erect monuments to traitors. That is… unless the traitor is Southern.
Benedict Arnold did more for the cause of liberty than any Confederate traitor
It can safely be said that Benedict Arnold did more for the cause of liberty than any Confederate traitor. Quite the contrary, while Benedict Arnold was pivotal to the American Revolution’s ultimate triumph, Confederate traitors sought to limit the franchise of freedom by rallying around the worst cause for which any collection of idiots ever gathered – the “states right” to own other human beings.
In his “Cornerstone speech,” Alexander H. Stephens, Vice of the Confederate States, explained,
“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea [opposite of “racial equality”- ed]; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”
Even back then, every day, was “opposite day” in conservative Bizarro World. In true, conservative, fashion, Stephens calls Northern abolitionists “insane” and “fanatics”, explaining,
“All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning.” He goes on, “One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics. Their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails.”
For those who still insist on buying conservative revisionist history nullifying the inherent racist ugliness of their treason, please refer them the words of their own Confederate “heroes.”
Confederate monuments are meant to carry a subtext of white supremacy
The Jim Crow South was maintained via a systematic campaign of terrorism that went on for generations. Today, from the Supreme Court rolling back key sections of the Voting Rights Act, to the ongoing Republican voter suppression tactics to a legal system that disproportionately imprisons blacks, then takes away their rights to vote, the disenfranchisement of black Americans – especially in Southern states – continues. This is the Confederate “heritage.” The proliferation of monuments to the Confederacy honors “heritage,” alright – a heritage of white supremacy.
Confederate flags popped up all over the South in response to the Civil Right’s Movement. Confederate monuments are still the South’s way of letting broader American society know they refuse to let go of underlying white Southern supremacy – and have no qualms taking up arms if we dare try and make them. As Tom Maxwell wrote for Al Jazeera America,
“The United Daughters of the Confederacy almost exclusively funded and sponsored these Confederate memorials. The UDC, along with the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, was the successor organization to the United Confederate Veterans, according to Harry Watson, a history professor at UNC Chapel Hill. “Their stated goals always were to venerate memory of Confederacy, to insist on nobility and rightness of the Confederate cause, to make sure that version of history was taught in Southern schools and Southern textbooks — so they were rigorous as far as textbook censorship really — and to memorialize Confederate dead,” Watson says, defining what has become known as the cult of the Lost Cause. “They did all these things with the understanding that the Confederacy was a noble and perhaps sacred cause that should always be respected and venerated by white Southerners.” “The subtext,” he adds, “was that the pro-Confederate white South was the only South that ever really existed and was the only one that mattered. Maintaining that view, and the white supremacy that was the political arm of it, was a sacred duty of everyone in the white South. The UDC and SCV were using their textbook supervision and monument building as a way of inculcating that message.”
For this “right” of white supremacy, institutionalized racism and the utter commodification of human life, the South sent 620,000 human beings to their cold, early, graves. Treason and racism is a “cause” for which one should hang their head in shame. If your great-grand pappy picked up a weapon for that “cause,” it’s not the job of civilization to make you feel good about your ancestor’s mistakes by erecting monuments to racists and traitors.
Removing monuments to treasonous racists isn’t about “sanitizing” the past – it is about giving veneration where it’s due.
Conservatives who constantly rail against the “political correctness” of all children receiving trophies just for showing up, should understand that just putting on a military uniform doesn’t make one a “hero” or worthy of a monument – especially when that uniform represents one of the most egregiously disgusting “causes” for which any army ever went to war.
The South has more monuments to Confederate traitors than they do to the Union from which they attempted to secede. In fact, the Federal government spends more money on Confederate grave markers, than it does on Union markers. As Steven Weiss explains in The Atlantic,
“Not far from many Confederate gravestones at Arlington, however, is an actual engraving of a motto with more bite to it. “Victrix causa diis placuit sed victa Catoni,” reads an inscription on the Confederate memorial. It’s a quote from the epic poem Pharsalia, written by Lucan about the Roman Civil War, and literally translated means, “the victorious cause pleased the gods, but the conquered cause pleased Cato.” As Malanowski told me, “You have to know your Latin history to know they’re talking about the Roman Civil War, that the dictator Julius Caesar won, and that Cato was pleased with the republicans’ sacrifice.” With that background in mind the inscription is “a ‘fuck you’ to the Union. It’s that sneaky little Latin phrase essentially saying ‘we were right and you were wrong, and we’ll always be right and you’ll always be wrong.'”
This is not only a disgrace – it’s destructive. The “post racial society” Faux News keeps insisting we’re living in, will never come to fruition while continuing to revere traitors who rallied for the cause of human bondage.
Time to relegate the Confederacy to the dustbin of history and its relics to museums
As Michael Keller wrote for Al Jazeera America, “…in addition to monuments and schools, we get from place to place on such roads as Jefferson Davis Highway (US-1 in Virginia) and Calhoun Memorial Highway (US-123) in South Carolina.” Due to a policy of Southern Even some of our military installations are named for traitors who took up arms against the United States. Jamie Malanowski, author of the book, “And The War Came,” wrote for the New York Times in 2013,
“In the complex and not entirely complete process of reconciliation after the Civil War, honoring the dead with markers, tributes and ceremonies has played a crucial role. Some of these gestures, like Memorial Day, have been very successful. The practice of decorating the graves arose in many towns, north and south, some even before the war had ended. This humble idea quickly spread throughout the country, and the recognition of common loss helped reconcile North and South. But other gestures had a more a political edge. Equivalence of experience was stretched to impute an equivalence of legitimacy. The idea that “now, we are all Americans” served to whitewash the actions of the rebels.
The most egregious example of this was the naming of United States Army bases after Confederate generals. Today there are at least 10 of them. Yes — the United States Army maintains bases named after generals who led soldiers who fought and killed United States Army soldiers; indeed, who may have killed such soldiers themselves. …Changing the names of these bases would not mean that we can’t still respect the service of those Confederate leaders; nor would it mean that we are imposing our notions of morality on people of a long-distant era. What it would mean is that we’re upholding our own convictions. It’s time to rename these bases. Surely we can find, in the 150 years since the Civil War, 10 soldiers whose exemplary service not only upheld our most important values, but was actually performed in the defense of the United States.” Read the entire article, here.
What message would the German people send if they erected statues, named schools, roads or military installations for World War II “heroes” like Panzer General Heinz Guderian or Erwin Rommel who fought in Hitler’s Germany? It’s “heritage,” after all! In its wisdom, Germany outlawed Nazi symbolism. Of course, this does not eradicate all ugly, Nazi, ideas or their adherents, but it does strip fans and fanatics of a banner to rally around, while marginalizing and sending them into the shadows.
Steven Heller, author of The Swastika: Symbol Beyond Redemption? explained,
“The idea that the battle flag of the Confederacy can sit on a flag pole in a government environment and, by law, can be prohibited from being taken down is just absurd… They lost slavery and they kept the symbol.” Perhaps in the spirit of reconciliation following the war, they hesitated to outlaw the flag, Heller says. But that doesn’t change the charged meaning behind the symbol.
“The Confederate flag, for many people … represents racism,” Heller says. “It represents a past that certainly deserves its historical due, but in the context of a historical environment, like a museum.” The act itself of banning the flag would carry its own symbolism. “I think what it would do is show that this country’s base racism is being rebeled against by people of goodwill and good spirit,” Heller says.” Hear Heller’s entire interview, here.
This is fundamentally about, not only who we are as a society, but who we want to be. If we want to become a “more perfect union,” it’s time to start reflecting our highest ideals by carefully choosing the people and causes we memorialize.
Time to remove Confederate monuments and rename the streets, schools and institutions in ways that bring out the best in us.
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