On Monday night, our Nina told us how a manic mob tore down a Confederate memorial in Durham, N.C. And the frenzy won’t end soon, either. Across the nation, in states such as Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, and yes, even the proud state of Texas, these monuments are coming down.
National Review’s Rich Lowry thinks it’s a good thing. He says it’s time to “mothball” the monuments and place them in museums and cemeteries. Moreover, he cites none other than the mythic southern general Robert E. Lee:
Lee himself opposed building Confederate monuments in the immediate aftermath of the war. “I think it wiser,” he said, “not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavoured to obliterate the marks of civil strife and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.” After Charlottesville, it’s time to revisit his advice.
I respect Lowry’s voice. He’s a traditional conservative, and his reasoning is thoughtful. Besides, his words are considerate, and not a knee-jerk response that appeals to tribalism.
However, I ask this: just how far would this go?
For example, take Robert E. Lee himself. Lowry gives us the traditional view of Lee as the Man of Honor. “An honorable soldier, Lee is an apt symbol for the Confederate rank and file whose sacrifices in the war’s charnel house shouldn’t be flushed down the memory hole,” writes Lowry.
However, a writer for The Atlantic calls the “kindly” General Lee legend something “based in the fiction of a person who never existed.” And Lee, of course, is long dead, so he’s not available for interviews.
So who gets to decide? The traditionalists or the revisionists?
But such discussion doesn’t appeal to the Tear ‘Em All Down crowd. If it’s a Civil War monument, and standing south of the Mason-Dixon line, it’s got to go.
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