“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santanaya
The furor over the removal of Confederate statues in New Orleans continues as both sides of the political spectrum heatedly argue their points of view. There are compelling points on both sides of the conversation.
As with any controversial issue, there are those engaging in healthy debate over the fate of the statues – and then there are those who contribute nothing to the conversation except foolish ad hominem attacks against their opponents. Enter The Washington Post. On Friday, Christine Emba published an article claiming that those who oppose the extraction of these monuments are not concerned with preserving history; they are motivated by a desire to return to the “good old days” of the pre-Civil War south. As she sees it, these terrible people want to put black Americans back in chains. Referencing the protester’s argument that leaving the statues in place preserves our history, she writes:
These claims don’t stand up. The truth is that the desperation to preserve this particular “heritage” and “past” is a facade for something more malignant. It’s privileged status, not history, that’s being protected. Whether or not they’re able to acknowledge it, the thing that all these indignant commentators rush to preserve is a toxic nostalgia for the time and place that Confederate monuments represent.
Ah, there it is, the “P-word.” Christine Emba has learned to read the minds of the protesters – and she has discerned that history is not the important factor here – it’s the privilege, stupid! These people don’t want to remember the history of our country; they want to go back to Jim Crow. Of course – in typical leftist media fashion – she provides no evidence to bolster her claims. She does not reference any interviews with the individuals she is unfairly criticizing. She cites no writings by people opposed to the removal of the monuments. Who needs facts when you can just disparage your opponents?
Speaking of facts, it would be reasonable to assume that the vast majority of black Louisianans approve of the removal of the statues, right? Wrong. According to the Associated Press, forty-seven percent of blacks in Louisiana oppose their relocation. It is doubtful that these people desire to go back to the times of slavery. In her piece, Emba also attempts to refute the argument that taking down these monuments would be similar to removing the Roman Colosseum or the pyramids:
Those protesting the monuments’ removal aren’t exactly avid historians; many couldn’t tell one Confederate general from the next. And despite what some indignant statue supporters might claim, moving memorials from the city center to a dedicated museum is nothing like leveling the Egyptian pyramids or tearing down the Roman Colosseum; it’s not destruction, it’s adding needed context.
She is right when she says those who are against removing the statues are not historians. However, one does not need to become a historian to comprehend the gravity of the Civil War. It was a brutal conflict marked by atrocities committed by both sides. It was a bloody struggle to end the evil institution of slavery – and it must not be forgotten or swept under the rug.
The reason Germany has not removed the concentration camps that were used to extinguish millions of lives is that they are necessary to remember the horrors of the Holocaust. In the same way, statues such as these remind us of the war that was fought to put an end to one of the ugliest chapters in American history. The notion that these structures are similar to other historical monuments is not an unreasonable supposition – and it certainly is not racist. Unfortunately, people like Christine Emba are not interested in countering arguments when it is much easier to vilify their opponents.
The removal of Confederate statues and other historical monuments is one of many contentious cultural issues being debated today. Americans must be able to deal with these problems by discussing them rationally, and false accusations of bigotry do nothing to further the conversation. Unfortunately, many on the left are not interested in having a healthy dialogue. They would rather avoid opposing viewpoints altogether.