Throughout the past half dozen years America has seen a growing movement for historical revision, a move to re-write history in a correct and less romanticized light doing away with state propaganda and acknowledging the contributions of women and minority figures to our country. This of course is a wonderful and much needed idea. One thing though, that has been a byproduct of this movement, is the removal of controversial statues, monuments, and other relics of a bygone era.
In New Orleans the city government has voted to remove the statues of three confederate generals: Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P. G. T. Beauregard. This situation has been common the last few years with the removal of statues of confederate figures throughout the southern states as well as the renaming of the “Stonewall” hallway in the US Army War College, named after famed graduate and confederate general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. While it is understandable that we as a people do not memorialize or glorify the acts of treason, oppression, tyranny, and the violation of the most basic of human rights committed against the American people during this moment in history; it is also important to leave a reminder to our present and future generations as to why the people who espouse and fight for those or similar ideas are wrong and should be opposed.
Removal of these statues, that were put up as monuments glorifying what the confederacy stood for, is the correct move. However we cannot let our desire to rid ourselves of reminders of an ugly past blind us to the future and to human nature. In accordance with the ideals behind the current movement for historical correction-ism, and in solidarity with the desire behind the removal of these physical reminders of the past, there should be also reminders in the forms of statues, plaques, museums, etc., that seek to educate and remind us of the wrongs in our past and how they hid themselves beneath the guise prosperity, wealth, and freedom.
America is steeped in a checkered past of slavery, hatred and bigotry of immigrants, religious persecution, and the internment of Japanese-Americans. In order to learn from the mistakes of our past we must have reminders of it and we must be educated in the truth of our history. Instead of just hiding from and ignoring our nation’s painful past we should seek to confront and overcome it, learn from it, and make sure that we do not embark on a journey to repeat it.