Monumental Huntsville

They finally did it, they moved the Confederate Monument to historic Maple Hill Cemetery into a more historically correct context. It now sits amid other memorials to soldiers who fought and died in the terrible conflict that so defined nineteenth-century America. It’s too bad it took so long, but I am glad it finally happened for several reasons that I would like to explain.

Image from WHNT Story

Those men who fought and died for The South include two of my Great Grandfathers, and a number of Uncles, and cousins. There are wide swaths of this history about which I am very proud. My relatives were men like Davey Crockett, Daniel Boone, Issac Criner, and John Hunt. Having pushed back the British, they came out into the western wilderness to seek their fortunes when “The West” was Tennessee. Their lives and hardships are impossible to imagine but are easily visible in Maple Hill by reading the dates on the stones. Their lives were short and difficult. We have come so far, we cannot really understand what they endured so we could live in this place, in relative peace and affluence. I have a deep respect for them and for their accomplishments.

But it is right that the monument was moved away from our County Courthouse. The base of the monument says that it was dedicated to the “Principals on which The Confederacy was founded” and those principals undeniably include the subjugation of Africans. It is true that most Confederates did not own slaves, but they were nonetheless compelled to violence against their new nation by their own separatist, rebel government. A group of men who were intent on preserving a way of life that depended on using, not paying, a group of people as if they were livestock or farm implements. Pointing out that there were other aspects of the conflict besides slavery is deflecting. It was about slavery and these men fought for its continuance.

It is not true that the slaves were happy. It is not true that the monument was to honor Southern Culture. It is not true that moving the monument erases anything. It is not true that everyone in favor of moving the monument is a liberal Democrat. It is not true that no one noticed the monument before.

It IS true that my family moved here before everyone reading this post, the deed says 1803 so let’s see someone beat that. It IS true that the monument is offensive to some people, and they notice it every time. It IS true that leaders recruiting people to Huntsville wish this was not on the Courthouse lawn. It IS true that celebrating a racist, rebel movement in a Federal city is counterproductive. It IS true that Confederate monuments are bad for “SmartCity” brand creation.

So, I am feeling relieved that it’s gone and no one got hurt. I am relieved for Huntsville that we got through this without earning a reputation like Charlottesville or Birmingham. I am relieved that our “protester friends” get to see that their voice does matter. Relieved is not encouraged though. I have read too many comments today for me to feel very encouraged about the environment in which we live. For me, I will just say a prayer of thanksgiving for wisdom and for safety, and for my community to move forward, away from hate, faster.

Florence, Wow.

Yesterday a friend sent me a Resolution passed by the Republican Party of nearby Lauderdale County. Here are some excerpts for your Saturday morning reading: (full text below)

“The Lauderdale County Monument to the men of the County who served in the Confederate Army in the War between the States 1861-1865 fought against oppressive taxation and for states’ rights in an army that included African-Americans in support and combat roles, was dedicated in 1903 and has stood in front of the county courthouse for 117 years.”

“We are urging the Lauderdale County Commission and Florence City Council to honor their oaths of office and follow the law! We are also calling on all of our elected officials to declare their position on the matter,”

I too am calling on public officials to declare their position on the monument in Madison County. This resolution, which passed unanimously, is seriously flawed and shows that they have not in fact read and studied the history even though they apparently think they have. They even refused to call it The Civil War but instead use the worn out Lost Cause phrase “war between the states”. They are clearly Lost Cause believers and apologists for the Confederacy, an uprising based in our own state that sought to overthrow the government of the United States.

Saying that the Confederacy was about “states rights” is like saying Black Lives Matter is about Health Care. The confederacy was a white supremacist movement lead by people who wrongly believed blacks were not fully human and rightly believed their economic systems would collapse without free labor.

I have written extensively about this in the past but it is important to repeat that the war was absolutely about slavery and the South’s right to continue a system of oppression and brutality. The economic structure of the South was based on the use of black families as farm equipment and personal property. The South asserted that it was their state’s right to determine the justice of this practice and no northerner had the right to interfere.

For more context, read The Cornerstone Speech from Alexander Stephens. Watch Ken Burns short film on Confederate Monuments and, here’s a new idea, ask a black friend what they think of them. As Burns said in his film “they are symbols of institutionalized racism in our culture” and have no place in Civil Society.

For me, they are best moved and not destroyed. Move them to a museum where they are placed in context with other now better-understood symbols from our troubled past. No one is seeking to erase anything or destroy anything. The request is that these statues cease to publically venerate the “principals on which the Confederacy was founded” (from the base of the HSV statue).

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