(December 14, 2016) According to The Washington Post Confederate monuments are a “problem” that needs to be fixed. Nonetheless, destroying Confederate monuments—or “reinterpreting” them with qualifying remarks cast in bronze—under the gun of political correctness is a bad idea for three reasons.
First, the history of the South’s evolving society is more apparent by adding new shrines to honor more recent heroes than by destroying or reinterpreting old ones. Moreover, the region has independently demonstrated an inclination to do so without any moral instruction from The Washington Post.
There are, for example, memorials to Martin Luther King in Atlanta, Memphis, Montgomery, and Austin, among other Southern places. Statues to the nine black teenagers who integrated Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957 were erected on the grounds of the state capitol on the fiftieth anniversary in 2007. Yet the same grounds include two Confederate statues put up in 1905 and 1913, respectively: One for the ordinary Rebel soldier and one honoring the women of the Confederacy.
Second, as Alexander Dumas put it, “The difference between patriotism and treason is a matter of dates.” Similarly, qualifications for political correctness fluctuate. Consider, for example, the possibility that future feminists might demand that monuments to Martin Luther King be destroyed because he was unfaithful to his wife. Consider also that a future hypothetical misogynistic society might demand that Arkansas remove the statue to Confederate women, which it erected without any edification from the Gloria Steinem brigade.
Third, condemning Confederate monuments because of the atavistic racial feelings of the era among the people they represent begs the question of whether the policy should also apply to Yankee statues. Consider the Lincoln Memorial. A couple of months before he announced the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862 Lincoln met at the White House with African-American leaders and urged that blacks leave the country. He even arranged congressional funding for their emigration.
Addressing his guests Lincoln said: “You and we are of different races. We have existing between us broader differences than exist between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word we suffer on each side. If this is admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated.”
Adding new monuments to more recent heroes while keeping the old ones in place provides a tangible record of how society evolved.