Honoring our Past

Sometimes both sides are wrong – people do things for the wrong reasons, yet those who protest the action miss the point and oppose it for the wrong reasons.

I find this to be the case in the recent kerfuffle about removing the statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville. Lee is an important figure in our country’s history. We can honor him and the role he played as leader of the Confederacy military, without honoring, indeed while rejecting, the shameful practice of slavery.

We are all human, every person has flaws. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. But nobody protests the Jefferson Memorial claiming it honors slavery. It honors Jefferson’s achievements and his role in our history. If perfection is the standard, if we judge people by their mistakes rather than their achievements, we’ll have to tear down all the monuments. Also, it is better to openly acknowledge our past and honor those who played a major role in it, even when difficult or uncomfortable, than to whitewash it with political correctness. Those who don’t understand and acknowledge history are doomed to repeat it.

In short, in removing the statue the city did the wrong thing for the right reasons.

However, many of the people protesting the removal of the Lee statue are racists (I’m not casting aspersions, many openly self-acknowledge this) for whom the Lee statue represented not his important role in our history, but the legacy of slavery. These misguided people want to unwind decades of social progress, hard-earned over the backs and blood of brave people who stood up and changed things for the better. It is difficult to take the same side as these racists. But taking the same side does not mean agreeing with them. Indeed, I reject their views as backward and hateful. They took the right side of the issue completely accidentally, for the wrong reasons. But that makes it hard to defend the position since it has been tainted by their association.

In short, in protesting the statue removal they they do the right thing for the wrong reasons.