The Day They Drove Old Dixie Down

It’s been national news, so I am sure most of you are aware that New Orleans has begun removing their confederate monuments. As a displaced Yankee and a student of history, this deeply saddens me.

Look, I get it. Having monuments around to people who fought “for slavery” – which they didn’t – makes people feel uncomfortable. It may even make them feel as though they haven’t come as far as they actually have. But honestly, if you desire progress, you must study where it came from.

I believe the best defense of self and of your rights is to remember where you came from. Don’t hide the past, study it and then teach it. We haven’t done a very good job of that with the Civil War, and now we are doing that particular era of our history an even larger disservice. The Civil War was largely economic. Sure, slavery played a roll in the war, but it wasn’t the only subject matter, nor was it the main one. Rewriting history to make it the sole focus does it no justice. Nor does tearing down the monuments.

Instead of vandalizing these monuments and demanding their removal, you should be taking your child to see them. You should be sitting that child down and explaining what happened in our history, what these people went through, what the war was really about, and how it all started in the first place.

When I was in high school, I had a friend with a younger brother. He was about six years old at the time. My friend and I had gone out to buy comic books as I was an avid collector at the time. When we got back to her house, her brother grabbed the comics and went to town. I remember clearly that he came to me confused with one of the comics. I hadn’t read any of them yet, and was unaware of the scene taking place in one, but boy, was it a doozy. In the scene he came to me about, a group was burning a cross on the front lawn of a black family.

His mother stood by as I explained it to him and answered his questions. I told him a little about slavery in the US and the struggles blacks went through after that period, and then took the chance to explain to him why it was wrong and why the majority of people in the US no longer did things like this, that blacks have a much higher standing in our society than they used to and why they were equals now when they weren’t considered to be then. The kid got it, and managed a reaction to the images he was seeing that the comic, myself, his mother, and his sister were hoping for… he recognized that what was happening in that image was wrong and why. But he got there by seeing it and by asking about it, opening a gateway to a short history lesson instead of hearing screaming, seeing violence, and being told how to think “or else.” He learned a lesson that will be important for the rest of his life, and was given the chance to form his own opinion based off of a lesson. But he got the lesson by seeing something that was disturbing, by seeing an image from the past of things that actually happened.

By removing these monuments, you remove an opportunity. You remove a teachable moment from children and also from people who move here or visit here from other countries. Slavery and human trafficking is still an issue in our world. A big one. Heck, there are ads on TV here in NC about human trafficking. So to say history, in this case, won’t repeat itself is ignorant and foolish.

‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ – attributed to George Santayana

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