A Monumental Proposal

Maybe we don’t need to remove the Confederate memorial statues.

Maybe we only need to remove the plaques that say who they were—rendering them appropriately anonymous and allowing them to slide into the same kind of obscurity that’s befallen most of the civic sculpture littering the American landscape today. Or maybe, if the statues really are necessary for the preservation of history, then we should rewrite the plaques to get the history right.

For openers, every plaque should begin by saying “This is one of the soldiers who lost the Civil War. His failure—the defeat of the Confederate Army—allowed the United States to remain united, grow, and become one of the most prosperous and influential nations on earth.”

Additional inscriptions might include thoughts like these—

“In his battles against the Union forces, he was literally an enemy of the United States. Just like the British soldiers who opposed the Colonial forces during the Revolution—and who, apparently through some oversight, have never been honored with statues like this one.”

“He was fighting against the unification of states that had been won piecemeal from not only the British, but also the Dutch, the French, the Spanish—and, of course, the Native Americans. He was fighting for an approach to government that defined our country not as a union, but as a confederation of still-independent states. Sort of like Iraq. Or the NFL.”

“He was fighting against the inexorable progress of technological and economic changes that began in the Industrial Revolution—which meant he was fighting mostly for the benefit of the wealthy plantation owners, struggling to preserve an antiquated agrarian economy that depended for its viability on an abundant, unpaid labor force.”

“He was fighting not just for the preservation of slavery, which had existed in one form or another throughout history’s previous millennia, but for the perpetuation of the Confederacy’s ‘peculiar institution,’ a unique perversion of the practice based on the dehumanization of an entire race.”

“He was fighting not to justify the taking of slaves as spoils of war—as the Roman Empire did to the Greeks, for example—but to sanction the enslavement of an entire race with the rationalization that they were somehow inferior, even subhuman. He was fighting for economic expedience, and against biological truth.”

“He was fighting against the course of human events, against freedom and democracy, against life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He was fighting against America.”

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