“…Red and yellow black and white, they are precious in [Jesus’] sight …” is the penultimate line in a song many of us learned in Sunday school.

The point of the song — often lost on adults, who are also God’s children — is that every place that any one of his children happens to be is hallowed ground. Granite and bronze, green and grey — no matter how configured, piled, arranged or cast as monuments to the wars that kill the precious ones — adds nothing to the ground beneath it but lost opportunity for flowers.

War monuments may be interesting, compel an emotional response, be important and even be necessary for some. But holy, as some have claimed? Not so much.

Yes, in the early 20th century the Charlottesville Council approved statues to Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson to be erected on city property. The money was provided by a wealthy donor whose other work included the undeniably racist George Rogers Clark monument, plus a park — set aside in typical Jim Crow fashion — for blacks. You can’t make this up.

No one should be disturbed by the fact that the right to petition the government regarding the disposition of the statues might spark a re-examination of what a community says about itself once it fully becomes a community. Is it wrong to consider whether such monuments were even a good idea then, much less now? No. Should any institution, policy or monument be exempt? Not in a free society.

Don’t worry, war veterans can handle it; they’ve dealt with situations of much greater consequence. And probably not a single veteran has any interest in being set on a pedestal, literally or figuratively. Indeed, they likely would be disappointed if their communities did not regularly self-examine.

Vets know better than most that the power of the United States is not in the military might it outwardly projects, but in its core strength: the thousands of vibrant communities that consider and promote the general welfare of all of their members.

Robert E. Little Jr.

Albemarle County


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