Opinion

Don’t cherry pick history: Confederate monuments must stand – R. Kevin Stone

Black plastic and police tape cover the vandalism to the Confederate Women’s Monument on the State Capitol grounds on July 21, 2015 in Raleigh, NC. The vandalism was discovered overnight and was covered by daybreak.
Black plastic and police tape cover the vandalism to the Confederate Women’s Monument on the State Capitol grounds on July 21, 2015 in Raleigh, NC. The vandalism was discovered overnight and was covered by daybreak. rwillett@newsobserver.com

Gov. Roy Cooper has called upon the N.C. Historical Commission to meet and approve the removal of three Confederate monuments from the grounds of the State Capitol in Raleigh.

The N.C. Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, is wholly opposed to the removal or relocation of any and all monuments and memorials from our historic Capitol Square.

The Monuments Protection Law of 2015 provides protection for all of our state’s many historical monuments located on public property. Although the Historical Commission may approve the relocation or removal of historic monuments, it is specifically limited by the sections of that law which only permit temporary relocation or removal for road and highway construction, or if the monument, itself, needs immediate physical preservation, at the end of which the monuments must be put back in their original locations.

And if a monument must be permanently relocated from its original location due to construction activity, it must be placed back in a location of equal prominence, honor, visibility, and accessibility, and within the same jurisdiction.

There are larger issues at work here.

Unlike Cooper, we do not cherry-pick which portions of our history to remember. The Confederate monuments and memorials on the Capitol grounds are part of North Carolina’s legacy as much as any of the other monuments.

Already across the nation there are moves afoot to take down monuments to Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Andrew Jackson, and Woodrow Wilson, and to rename countless institutions, schools, towns, and much more. These efforts are part of an immense national effort which has at its origin small, hard core Communist groups, like the Workers’ World Party in Durham – the same group that cheers on Kim Jong Un in North Korea – who wish to completely erase nearly all American history, to rewrite totally all our past, to purify it of all perceived “impurities.” Once begun, where do they - where will it - stop?

But like all violent forces that wish to purify the past, these efforts end in a kind of intellectual and spiritual madness that devours us all and knows no end. For it is not just Confederate monuments, it is monuments to Vietnam veterans, to the Founders of this nation, to doctors, to women, to children ... anyone who did not share a strict Marxist vision of society a century ago ... that are now targeted.

Perhaps the most poignant of the three memorials targeted by Cooper, is the one dedicated to the women of the Confederacy. It does not celebrate or honor the men who fought for the Confederate States of America. It does not celebrate slavery, but rather those who were left behind and scratched out a living, providing for their children while their husbands, brothers, fathers, and uncles went off to war. They endured hardships, starvation, and death.

The inclusion of this monument in Cooper’s petition shows the full extent of his inability to resist the demands of tiny, but extreme and boisterous Marxist pressure groups. It does not reflect at all the will of the vast majority of North Carolinians who wonder why we spend valuable time on figuring out ways to take down monuments while thousands look for good jobs, good schools, and good communications.

The monuments on Capitol Square are and should remain part of our landscape. They should serve as educational markers that assist us to understand what happened in our past, guideposts where school children on field trips may stop while their teachers impart vital history lessons. To remove them warps our view of our heritage and distorts our view of ourselves.

Instead of taking monuments down, we should be putting more up.

R. Kevin Stone is the commander of the North Carolina Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

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