To those Charlottesvillians concerned that we are erasing history by not celebrating Jefferson’s birthday as a paid holiday for city employees:
I am no Jefferson scholar, but a quick look at his epitaph — the one he wrote for himself — tells us that Jefferson wished to be remembered first and foremost as the author of the Declaration of Independence. And, at a local level, what better day to remember Jefferson’s Declaration than March 3, the day on which, almost a century after it was written, those words, after far too long, bore fruit for many of people living in the shadow of Monticello?
Likewise, to Charlottesvillians who argue, again in the name of preserving history, for keeping the Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson statues in our parks:
If we believe in and honor the promise of the Declaration of Independence, how can we possibly countenance these statues, which venerate men who fought to perpetuate an institution that runs directly counter to the core principles of our democracy as set forth in that document?
Personally, I think the statues should go (though that’s not my call, nor that of anyone who looks like me). But if the powers that be prevent their removal, then how can we, as Americans, tolerate their presence without insisting that they be cast in a clearer light, taken down off their pedestals and placed on the ground? There, they can stand as emblems of the unspeakable inhumanity that we as a people are capable of. They can serve as our own “never again.”
We can insist, too, that they be surrounded by other statues scaled large enough to tower over them — figures of people like Nannie Cox Jackson, Ida B. Wells, Thurgood Marshall, Richard and Mildred Loving, John Lewis, Julian Bond, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Khizr Khan; the list is long. These are people of all colors and genders who tell the story not of a lost cause, but of a just one; people who have fought to uphold and fully realize Jefferson’s words, rather than to subvert them.
Let our parks — let us — honor the people and the history not of the Confederate States of America, but of the United States of America.
Mandy P. Hoy