By Tom Henry | as published in the May 20, 2017 edition of the Blytheville Courier News
“One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present,” former Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir.
“We are not makers of history, we are made by history,” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Do you learn more from your successes or from your failures? Failures of course!
Would you destroy your child just because they reminded you of the past mistake of marrying your ex-spouse? Of course you wouldn’t. Would you destroy your entire body because of the stretch marks or imperfections that remind you of a painful past? Of course not. Would you want to destroy the entire Aeroplex because it reminds you of the military and some historic military actions somewhere were clearly evil and despicable?
Monuments are historical signposts, nearly sacred in my estimation, regardless of whether I approve of the one being honored or not. They were found to be significant enough at some point in time to warrant being built. The mere fact that a monument was erected makes it historic because it takes community support to erect a monument.
So, regardless of how uninformed or politically correct the City of New Orleans is today, the fact that they were erected for Gen. Robert E. Lee, Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard and former Confederate President (and U.S. War Secretary) Jefferson Davis indicates that they were historically significant.
But today, we get so easily offended that some feel the need to tear them down. Others rename long held city park names and break with all tradition that isn’t comfortable to today’s mores and public opinion. What an absolute shame and travesty. Should we tear down the White House and other Washington D.C. buildings and monuments because slaves were used to build them? Of course not.
How can we learn from the past if we attempt to erase it? How can we learn from our past and not repeat those mistakes if we sanitize our history by rewriting it into our own image today?
History is not a reflection of us TODAY. History is a timeline of what we as a people have been through, warts and all, and the lessons we’ve learned and still fail to learn. I’m sure you can think of how you have taken steps both forward and backwards in your life while still making progress overall. The same goes with us as a people. But the difference is, we tell those we love of our mistakes so that they don’t have to repeat them. We truly want our bad experiences to be enough to prevent them from wasting their time. Likewise, our ancestors have left signposts along the way for us. Lets learn from them.
Historic markers are like the marks by the back door where your grandmother marked your height every year. None of those marks reflect where you are today, but they show the timeline of your growth.
First, do we not learn from our past? Of course we do, as long as our past remains before us. Now, realizing the victors write the histories, what lessons can be learned from Gen. Robert E. Lee, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and yes…even Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest? Can lessons even be learned from monuments to Malcolm X in New York City, Vladimir Lenin in Seattle, Planned Parenthood Founder Margaret Sanger at the Smithsonian, the “satanic statue” in Detroit and the list goes on and on and on.
The fact of the matter is – no one’s life is all one-dimensional. Even Lucifer had a good beginning. All people have/had both good and bad within them. Lee might have fought for the Confederacy, but that does not mean that he endorsed every policy or practice the confederacy had in place.
I for one am proud to be an American, I bleed red, white and blue and I absolutely am mortified and ashamed of legalized abortion. To me personally, I place the millions of aborted babies as at least an equal national sin as the horrible demonic national sin of slavery. Yes I enlisted in the United States Army and defended this great nation, but that did not mean that I endorsed abortion any more or less than Lee’s service to his homeland (Virginia) meant that he endorsed slavery. In fact, he had some very strong arguments against slavery (look it up). Also, Lee had admirable qualities, particularly from his personal character to his efforts to bring the country together after the war was over.
Now, lets look at an example where someone is considered more extreme like Lenin, Forrest, or Malcolm X. Should they be removed? No. Because in those cases, the tenor and sentiment of the people at the time was such that they honored those men. So those monuments stopped being so much about them as they became markers to our collective memory as a people.
A scar on my arm reminds me every time that I see it to be mindful of taking hot cobbler out of the oven. Another scar on my wrist reminds me of something entirely different. The bottom line is, scars are lessons and reminders to not repeat our past mistakes – but they are not vindicators. To accept a scar or a monument without removing it does not mean we endorse or condone…it just means we learned.