Statues don’t qualify for protection
The recent letter “War memorials are sacred ground” (The Daily Progress, Jan. 31) fails to engage with any serious arguments about U.S. history, the “Lost Cause” and the perceived meaning and significance of Virginia’s monuments and memorials to the leaders and soldiers who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.
Instead, it offers a blanket argument that insists that these monuments and memorials are “sacrosanct” and that they “deserve permanence and need protection from the shifting tides of public opinion.”
Monuments and memorials are not the same, as one of our local residents, Frank Dukes, eloquently argued in a commentary published in Salon.
Virginia’s monuments to Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis and others aren’t about memorializing the estimated 258,000-plus soldiers who died serving in the Confederate army. And they certainly don’t commemorate the far higher number of Union soldiers who died, including the significant numbers of Virginians who fought for the Union, nor the members of Albemarle’s population in 1865 who were African Americans and wished for a Union victory.
These statues are about paying tribute to men who led the fight to preserve the Confederacy and slavery; they embody the ideology of white supremacy, no matter how many Lost Cause enthusiasts or others try and say otherwise.
Would the author argue that statues and memorials to German generals, such as Erwin Rommel, Karl Doenitz, and Walter Model would have been appropriate way to honor German World War II dead? Let us remember that Lee himself thought no statues should have been erected to him. Would the author argue that statues to Joseph Stalin deserved permanence in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union? I suspect not. There are other ways to remember those who fought for an unjust cause.
If an element of our community wants to preserve the Lee and Jackson statues, let them raise funds to put them in a museum or a remote area where the majority of citizens don’t have to confront them, and the legacy they represent, on a daily basis. Our legislature should grant local control, and it should grant it now.