Living in the southern united States means living in the former Confederacy where the history of the War to Enslave the States is embedded in the very land. Most everywhere in the South contains some semblance of that history — the Underground Railroad, the Battle of Atlanta, Sherman’s March to the Sea, Gettysburg, Antietam, Fredericksburg, etc. Confederate Memorials honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of states’ rights abound throughout cities and towns in the South. Some “Southerners” feel shame regarding this history, which one relates to an improper focus on the reason for the war — slavery.
Since the Charleston church shooting incident, the battle flag of the former Confederate states came under attack, dubbed “racist” and declared a symbol of slavery. It hit a nerve with the Birmingham Parks and Recreation board. On Wednesday, the board voted to remove a confederate monument from a public park. Linn Park, the park hosting the monument, sits across the street from the Birmingham City Hall and the Jefferson County Courthouse. This comes on the heels of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley ordering the removal of several Confederate Flags from state capitol monuments last week. The monuments still stand.
According to board member and former Mayor Bernard Kincaid, “confederate monuments do not belong on state property in light of the Charleston shooting. In 1905, the Pelham Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy erected the monument in Linn Park. However, the group no longer exists. Lawyers are looking into any legal impediment to removing the monument while the board contacts five other chapters in order to “see if they will assume the cost and responsibility of moving the monument.”
Current Mayor William Bell, in agreeing with the board’s decision, stated, “My personal opinion is any monument that commemorates the tradition of slavery, the tradition of suppression of a race should be removed.”
City Councilor William Parker, who also serves on the parks and recreation board, expressed his pleasure at the decision.
“I think what happened in South Carolina is a tragic event and so I’m pleased with the steps Gov. Bentley is taking and others across the country so we’ll be waiting for the report back from the director and the city attorney’s on how we move forward from the Park Board,” city councilor William Parker said.
So, how did things move from taking down a confederate flag to moving a confederate monument from a public park to private property? Birmingham can thank Frank Matthews of Outcast Voters’ League as he declared the monument “offensive toward African Americans.” You can view Matthews’ statement here in the news report.
“The great people that can get it is the ones that put it up there, the Daughters of the Confederacy put it there in 1925, I mean 1905, they are still out, there are the 138 members now with Anne King as their uh… uh … chairman president. So I suggest to them that they meet with Birmingham in some type of way and take that monument and take it down … uh… uh… South and put it at mile marker 13 with that big ole racist Confederate 100 foot flag that’s standing there.”
Let’s see here. The monument stood in the park since 1905 but all of a sudden, the monument offends Matthews and his group? And, to top it all off, the Confederate flag is racist especially that “big ole 100 foot flag.” Matthews is planning to get a petition up to remove the monument. The board voted to remove the monument so Matthews plan for a petition seems moot.
As someone whose ancestors fought in every war this country waged, I take offense that my ancestors are being castigated for fighting for states’ rights as upheld by the Constitution because some individuals have perverted the intent of that conflict for something that never was. But, I digress. In light of these “developments,” are we now to begin erasing some part of history when one group or another gets offended by it? What are we to do about memorials to Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt? Some find memorials to known communists in a “free” constitutional republic offensive. Should we remove those monuments as well?
It begs to question what will happen to monuments like the Cyclorama in Atlanta that sits in historic Grant Park near the Atlanta Zoo? The museum houses an oil painting of the Battle of Atlanta, circa 1885, commissioned by the American Panorama Company in — get this — Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Hung on the wall of the circular room, the painting merges with a three-dimensional diorama foreground that blends flawlessly with the painting. One of the soldiers looks like Clark Gable — just a little fun fact.
What about all other monuments recognizing confederate soldiers who gave their lives to fight against federal aggression? And, it’s not only soldiers. Many civilians, including women and children, died during the War to Enslave the States. Historian James McPherson estimated that as many as 50,000 civilians, considered a very conservative number, perished in the South, and “concluded that the overall mortality rate for the South exceeded that of any country in World War I and all but the region between the Rhine and the Volga in World War II.” Many forget that blacks died during the war as well. Are these losses to be relegated to some remote area to be forgotten?
None of that matters to some. Many still view the Southern states and its inhabitants as “rebels,” “insurrectionists,” and “racists.” They declare we cling to the “rebel” flag and guns out of hate and bigotry, when that is the furthest from the truth. Truth matters not to those who seek to silence others.
The truth remains as it has always — the federal government under Lincoln wanted more control over all the states. They used an emotional issue as slavery to disguise the intent to subjugate states by eliminating some states’ rights, such as the right to cease participation in a willing, mutually agreed upon cooperative. In standing for the state supremacy over the federal government, as is established in the Constitution, the federal government dubbed the southern states and its inhabitants “rebels.” Lincoln, the greedy communist, could not cede the money generated from the agricultural south and could not allow a separation of the nation since the northern section would then have to pay the south for agricultural goods, such as cotton.
Lincoln’s ploy worked. The federal government, in an unconstitutional act, subjugated the Southern states and by attrition, the northern states as well. However, the Confederate flag is “offensive” and “racist” while the “Stars and Stripes” mirrors enslavement of the states while representing a “constitutional republic.” The northern “federal” states cheered as the South suffered under military occupation and martial law — “we put those rebels in their place.” Never mind, the northern states celebrated its enslavement as well. But, monuments to those who fought against federal government subjugation and enslavement are “offensive” and “racist.”
One would imagine Native American Indians would find any “monument” referring to the “Indian Wars” and the “Stars and Stripes” offensive. Americans of Japanese descent might find monuments commemorating World War II offensive. It never ends if we being to erase history when one group or another finds something offensive? As a reminder, communists rewrite history plenty; they are famous for it. Are we as a free nation to resort to that type of “censorship?” Any way you slice it and dice it, censorship is what it is.
Apparently, now, when tragedy strikes, the reaction is to find something offensive and racist in the past to relate to it in order to erase history. Those who seek to erase history will succeed unless our heritage, all of it, good and bad, is actively preserved. It is from history that we learn. Without full knowledge of history, one cannot expect to learn from it in order not to repeat the same mistakes. In looking at what is happening with this issue, no one wants to learn history much less stop making the same mistakes.
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