My hometown, Baltimore, is one of the most violent and dysfunctional cities in the country. The failed policies of socialism, anti-family values, and “soft on crime” have taken one of the most famous cities down from a population of 900,000 in the 1960s to roughly 600,000 today. But never fear: The liberal leaders in Baltimore and other blue cesspools have discovered the perfect solution to avoiding the difficult policy challenges of our time — they have declared war on Robert E. Lee.
In Baltimore, it started in 2015 when the city renamed Robert E. Lee Park. Now, the mayor and city council are exploring ways to spend their extremely limited funds on removing every remaining monument, including one honoring Confederate soldiers, one honoring women of the Confederacy, and statues of Lee and Stonewall Jackson. It’s part of the new nationwide leftist temper tantrum cropping up in other cities from New Orleans, Louisiana, and Lexington, Kentucky, to Gainesville, Florida. In Memphis, leftists are still trying to dig up the grave of a Confederate general after the city council voted to remove the monument for Nathan Bedford Forest in 2015.
And the impulse to tear down monuments is becoming literal and violent. Protesters in Durham, North Carolina, toppled a Confederate statue off its foundations.
What Civil War memorials mean to average Americans
I have fond childhood memories of visiting Civil War reenactments with my history-loving family. I don’t remember seeing a single political protester — no white supremacists, no anarchists. There were only patriots who loved the country, loved our heritage, and loved American history and who came together to celebrate the reconciliation of America, as embodied through Grant and Lee at Appomattox.
This understanding of Civil War monuments and memorabilia was shown in the first major reenactment of Pickett’s Charge — when actual veterans of both sides embraced on the Gettysburg battlefield in 1913. Twenty-five years later, at the 75th reunion, FDR best summed up the dedication ceremony as follows:
They are brought here by the memories of old divided loyalties, but they meet here in united loyalty to a united cause which the unfolding years have made it easier to see. All of them we honor, not asking under which flag they fought then—thankful that they stand together under one flag now.
Until this current era of leftism, everyone was able to appreciate that a large segment of this country had fairly recent ancestors who fought bravely on both sides of the terrible war. Yes, the leadership of the South clearly pushed the war in large part to promote slavery, but the average soldier in gray, like my wife’s great-great-grandfather, was as poor as can be, didn’t own any slaves, and fought bravely for his cause. It was those soldiers in gray who were honored by the monument in Durham, which was vandalized by communist and anarchist protesters.
President Eisenhower, who later retired to a farm in Gettysburg, explained the purpose of these memorials during a speech commemorating the centennial of the battle of Gettysburg:
That war was America’s most tragic experience. But like most truly great tragedies, it carries with it an enduring lesson and a profound inspiration. It was a demonstration of heroism and sacrifice by men and women of both sides who valued principle above life itself and whose devotion to duty is a part of our nation’s noblest tradition.
This is not some revisionist history. This was the predominant sentiment among most Americans, one which traversed all political lines across our civilization … until the de-civilization agenda arrived during this generation. Nobody, including those who have no connection to southern heritage, had a problem with these monuments for 150 years. Now, leftists have an insidious drive to stoke their racial agenda, an agenda that will net nothing positive, uplifting, or uniting and will only elicit a counter-reaction from those truly dark corners that promote a racial agenda on the other side.
But when you step outside the anti-common sense groupies in the media and the Acela Corridor, most Americans still have their priorities straight and have no interest in elevating racial tensions and disinterring the graves of Confederate generals.
It’s fascinating to watch the media report and feign surprise over polling data showing that a majority of the country views the Confederate flag (technically, the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia) as a symbol of southern pride, not racism.
PRRI polling surprised me: 51% see Confed flag as sign of Southern pride, 41% as sign of racism. 60/33 among whites. https://t.co/88TWPBltuT
— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) August 14, 2017
If these reporters would step outside their cocoon, perhaps they’d realize that most Americans aren’t obsessed with race. And the reality is much deeper than this poll reflects. Whether the Confederate flag is a negative racist symbol or not is the wrong question to ask. It’s understandable why many would view it as such. The real question is: Should we set our attention to eradicating monuments and even disinterring graves of ancestors of millions of Americans — even to the point of attacking men like Robert E. Lee, who was universally revered by most Americans for 160 years?
The effort to tear them down is not motivated by good
Yet for cowards who don’t want to own up to the failures of the blue agenda on family, community, jobs, the breakdown of faith, and the culture of violence and collapse of the rule of law, it’s easy to stomp on the graves of men who died 150 years ago. Toss in the word “Nazi,” and that inoculates you from confronting the core policy challenges of our time.
Make no mistake, whether you care about history or monuments or not, this effort is not coming from a good place and is not headed in a safe direction. Let’s not forgot this is the same crowd that is tearing down the Ten Commandments and removing separate-gender bathrooms. All of this is part and parcel of a de-civilization agenda that desecrates every bit of our history, traditions, and commonsense values. It is truly regressive at its core.
The only thing this agenda will accomplish is rejuvenating the dark forces that were thankfully dormant until recently and turn a once innocuous and even inspirational heritage of reconciliation into a flashpoint for the worst elements on all sides of the political and social spectrum.
Those culture warriors who are hell-bent on uprooting our history and traditions should internalize the admonition the late Justice Scalia delivered to the legal profession shortly before his passing: “What Shakespeare is to high school students, a society’s long-established traditions are to the jurist. He does not judge them; he is judged by them.”
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.