As a professional historian with relatives who fought on both sides of the Civil War, two points regarding Confederate monuments bear consideration.
First, Robert Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson are traitors. They waged war against this country and are directly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of American servicemen. You cannot fly an American flag next to the Confederate flag. You cannot claim to “support the troops” and support the Confederacy. These are diametrically opposed.
Why should we have statues that lionize enemies of this country who killed our troops? By this logic, should we erect statues of Heinz Guderian? Isoroku Yamamoto? Ho Chi Minh? Mohammed Omar? Lee and Jackson should be remembered similarly, as enemies who waged war against this nation.
Second, some argue that removing statues is “erasing history.” This is a fundamental misunderstanding of how monuments function. Statues are not symbols of history, but of power. These statues symbolize that those in power in the South worshipped men who fought for slavery and that they considered African-Americans inferior.
The statues already blur history by promoting falsehoods that scholars proved wrong long ago. Removing them will not erase anything. The Civil War is the most written-about subject in American historiography. Museums, books and journals will do more to preserve historical truth than a statue dedicated to white supremacy ever will.
If we want to demonstrate that our society rejects bigotry, we must reject public veneration of men that killed American troops in the name of racism.
Mike Hankins, Manhattan