In defense of Civil War statues

In defense of Civil War statues

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By: Allen Nitschelm on August 4, 2020 | Media Criticism

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I am not a huge history buff, but as I’ve gotten older, I begin to appreciate history more.

My American history was learned in high school and anything I’ve picked up since then has been from personal reading or media.

I also enjoy art and sculpture, and have started to appreciate some of the concepts behind “modern art” even though I dislike grouping it with what I would consider “real art.” I’m sure art critics would conclude that my taste is evolving, but I would say I’m just getting a bit more tolerant in my old age.

So Civil War statues have some appeal, both for the history they represent and their classical art form. Removing these monuments should be done with care and thought, based on some type of political process, and not pulled down with ropes and chains by mobs. That would seem pretty obvious unless you subscribe to the Leftist mantra, “the end justifies the means.”

We can all agree that the South had an immoral position. Enslaving human beings is unjustified and evil, period. I’m sure at the time, those defending and fighting for secession did not see themselves as defending evil, and we know from human nature that when one’s personal fortunes are at stake, people can justify almost anything. The South wanted to maintain its economy and way of life, and despite this schism that tore the country apart, our leaders recognized that both sides were still Americans.

So the right side won and slavery in America was ended. But what do we do with those who fought on the wrong side? Should they be imprisoned and punished, or do we forgive and pardon? Can mistakes be redeemed? Can people who make mistakes change their mind and be forgiven?

This reminds me on several levels about the late Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia. He was a leader in the KKK and also was a leading Democrat, serving in Senate leadership positions including the Majority Leader. In his older years, he evidently had a change of heart and renounced his racist views. When he died, he was eulogized by leaders of the Democratic Party who evidently could forgive him.

Healing the rift of the Civil War was much harder than forgiving one individual, obviously, but the purpose behind the healing was far more important. I believe President Lincoln wanted to heal the country and pull it back together as one nation. He did not want to further humiliate the South. He wanted to honor the sacrifice of Southern soldiers even if they had served an immoral purpose.

Armed rebellion is never an option so long as we have free elections and non-violent means of achieving change. The South continued to harbor groups like the KKK who have a right to speak, march, and protest just as much as “Black Lives Matter” and everyone in between. Armed insurrection and secession caused a war, but healing required that we treated the defeated South as partners and Americans instead of racists and criminals. And that is why I think we allowed statues and such to the Confederacy, whereas weaker and less resilient democracies would have feared a resurgence of the South and continual distrust and division. Judging from history, Lincoln’s decision to treat the South like lost brothers rather than defeated enemies was fully justified. And in that spirit, we built and maintain monuments to both sides so we remember and learn the lessons, not just of division, but of reconciliation.

Not wanting to tear down or whitewash our history are good reasons to keep Civil War statues. Honoring the decisions made to reconcile our country even though all the decision-makers are long dead has a lot of merit. Should we rename roads and bridges, not to mention colleges and army bases, once the individuals have been forgotten, or is having their names and deeds remembered part of our history that we shouldn’t be quick to erase?

I admit, the lessons of forgiveness and reconciliation are hard ones for descendants several generations later to remember. It is far easier to see a Confederate general and not be reminded of the cause they fought for and how that cause has been, and always was, evil. But I think President Lincoln knew better than anyone the evils of slavery and the harm of secession and he wanted to forgive and pardon.

Nothing lasts forever and I do not reflexively oppose removing statues if future generations change their minds. But at least first acknowledge what the Union was trying to do and why it was smart and necessary, and how successful that strategy was, and maybe it is a lesson we need to learn again as our country seems as divided as it has ever been in the last 150 years.


Allen Nitschelm is publisher of He critiques the Boston Globe, mostly focusing on the bias in their news reporting. News articles are graded for bias, and the website has a listing of the average bias ratings for all reporters reviewed. See our website for more information and the four categories of articles we publish.

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