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It’s Time for Lee to Surrender Again

HistoriansRobert E Lee say Robert E. Lee was humble and gracious in his act of surrender at Appomattox in 1865. It’s time he and his worshipers do it again. Bow out and be gone. As did Grant, I’ll let it pass without harboring feelings of vengefulness. I promise I won’t carry a grudge. Quite the contrary, I continue to carry the same respect for those parts of reality that command respect. After all, many of my ancestors fought for and with Lee on the battlefields of Fredericksburg, Chickamauga, and many others.

As an avid student of history, the era of the Civil War has long been one of my burning passions. As a child, I was regaled with stories of my family’s participation in the conflagration that was the American Civil War. Many amongst my clan rooted in the hills of southeastern Tennessee, northern Georgia and western North Carolina referred to it as the War of Secession. Some still do. Many of my progenitors served in the 7th Tennessee Infantry and fought gallantly under Longstreet and Stonewall Jackson. I have long been intrigued researching my family’s involvement. Most of the stories can be found in the history books or other records buried in the archives. Some are available to me only because they’ve been passed down verbally from generation to generation.

My passion for Civil War history was further inflamed when Ken Burns produced his epic series for PBS. I was enthused when I discovered that a Chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans was named after an uncle of mine, Colonel John Fite Goodner. Hoping I’d found a great resource of historical information, I enthusiastically joined the S.C.V. I’m afraid I soon learned their interest in history had a slant that I found not totally honorable. Their primary objective didn’t seem to be enlightenment. They tended to see things in black and white. I soon deserted and became an “inactive” member.

SCVWith my pedigree, I feel as if I’ve at least earned the right to have an opinion on the question of “Should statues that glorify the Confederacy come down?” After all, as they come down, reminders of my own family history come down with them. So what do I think?

They should be removed.

Furthermore, no government entity, state, county, parish, or local, should fly the Stars-and-Bars, i.e., the Confederate Flag.

Yes, the Civil War is a part of our history. We can’t deny that. We can’t alter that. And we can neither forget it nor avoid the consequences of it. But there are two principal reasons I say bring down the monuments and bury the Star-and-Bars.

First, we must accept the facts as they undeniably exist. Was Robert E. Lee a great General and a great leader? Absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Lee’s accomplishments on the field of battle and in other areas of his life were beyond exceptional. The same can be said of other leaders of the Confederacy. However, they were NOT American heroes. They fought against the United States of America. They arguably caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans in the four years the war persisted. And perhaps you’ve noticed – they lost the war. They were “our” opponents. And when I say “our” opponents, I include my southern family in that group because when the war ended, we remained a part of “our” country, the United States of America.

I challenge you to find any other country in the world with a plethora of monuments dedicated to its invaders. Hitler was undeniably a great leader. But he was our enemy. It would be unimaginable to see a statue dedicated to Adolf Hitler in the middle of Central Park. For hell’s sake… he fought against us with the result of millions of deaths. Hirohito bombed Pearl Harbor and his armies fought us viciously in the Pacific. Hundreds of thousands died defending “our” nation. Where’s the statue of the Emperor Hirohito?

Lee was an avowed enemy of the United States and he ruthlessly pursued the objective of destroying our country. What justification can there be for aggrandizing his actions?

The other – and in my mind – and most compelling reason to bar the Stars-and-Bars and to bring down the shrines to Confederate Heroes can be explained by considering the ancient symbol for the Hindu god, Vishnu. The symbol has been used for probably more than 6,000 years. However, at some point in the not too distant past, the same symbol was usurped by a group that ultimately became one of the most despicable groups in history. The symbol that had previously represented the Hindu god of the sun was taken and made more famous – at least in Western nations – as the SCharlottesvillewastika. The Swastika came to represent hate, antisemitism, death camps, Aryan supremacy, storm troopers, Hitler and death.

Like the Swastika, the Stars-and-Bars has been stolen. It has become a symbol of hate, racism, white supremacy, antisemitism and beliefs generally held as being contrary to the moral fabric from which the great American nation has been woven. We can’t and don’t want them removed from history. The Confederate flag has its place in history along with the monuments and stories of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, James Longstreet, Nathan Bedford Forrest and many other symbols of a troubled time when the nation nearly broke apart. They belong in museums and in history books.

When groups of white supremacists march through the streets of Charlottesville or any other American city carrying the Stars-and-Bars alongside the Nazi flag, they’re not proclaiming the honor and goodness of my Confederate heritage. When the Neo-Nazis outwardly call for the demise of black and brown peoples, Jews, and Muslims, they, like the Confederates who rose up against our nation, are spreading hate and vitriol. That is not the spirit from which America was created.

So with all due respects to my Uncle Colonel John Fite Goodner and many of my other relatives from southeast Tennessee and western North Carolina, it’s time to lay down our weapons of hatred. I remember you and honor you. Your blood was spilled on the field of battle and it runs in my veins.

It’s time to remove the monuments.

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One Response

  1. Excellent piece. Didn’t know that part of your family’s history.

    Like

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