When I was in high school I competed on the debate team. We would show up for a debate and be given a controversial topic and told the side for which we were debating. It was an exercise in critical thinking and it was interesting when one of us would have to debate for something that went against our own personal beliefs.
I wish people would more often be forced to debate the side that opposes their own personal beliefs. It is a wonderful way to at least try to understand an opposing viewpoint. I always enjoyed debating when given my personal viewpoint, but it was the most interesting and educational when I had to debate for an issue that went against my own personal beliefs.
I find myself debating against myself when it comes to the recent furor over taking down confederate statues. The taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee is a perfect example where if I were on debate team I could argue either side.
I don’t believe we should take down statues that are a reflection of history. No one should try and rewrite history. We can’t erase the facts of slavery and the Confederate South and their fight to maintain ownership of slaves. And while the Civil War was not fought only about the issue of slavery—the issue of maintaining The Confederate States of America and the matter of secession, something that was not recognized by the Northern states because of the fear that secession would lead to a nation of several small countries and the United States as a Union would be lost was reason for the war. But it can be argued that the issue of slavery was at the very core of secession, at the very core of the reason for the Civil War. So the question becomes do we keep the statues that honor the men who fought for the right to own slaves? Do we keep standing statues that honor the men and the states that held slavery dear? Robert E. Lee was a huge believer in the right to own slaves—he went to war defending that right—should we celebrate a man who The New York Times, on June 4, 1865, said should be tried for treason?
I don’t know. I do know as a white woman, I have no interest or desire to see a statue honoring a man who held the belief that ownership of another human being was something to go to war over, to succeed from the United States, to cause the death of thousands. I can’t imagine were I a black woman, how I would feel seeing a statue that honors a man who held the belief that a woman could be sold to one man and her child to another—a man who went to war to defend something so vile.
People who want the statues to remain, the monuments to the Confederacy to remain where they are, claim that we shouldn’t tear down history. They say that we shouldn’t try to erase the past. I agree. We shouldn’t try to erase the past, but should we allow statues and monuments to stand in honor of something our nation went to war over and fought against? The North won. The South lost, and with it shouldn’t statues of men who were heroes to the ideology of slavery be removed?
Perhaps there is a compromise—perhaps let the statues remain but change the text on them to reflect their role in defending the horrors of slavery, and let the statues be reminders of wrong and not right, be disdained and abhorred, be seen not as monuments but reminders of a sad time in history.
Except, the racists and the white supremacists will still see them as glorious testaments to what they lost…and that alone would support my argument to tear them down.