In an apparent effort to exacerbate the division running rife in America, the Pentagon again raised its fist, defying congressional intent — this time, slating the removal of an Arlington National Cemetery monument dedicated in 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson and intended as a symbol of unification after the Civil War. With a misplaced social justice zeal that infects a minority of Americans, the Defense Department continues its goal to wipe out every vestige of evidence that there was a Confederacy.
One consequence is a disaffection among Americans whose ancestry is related to southern states. And as it turns out, this region provides a preponderance of the population who enlist to serve. A military scrambling and failing to meet recruiting goals purposefully alienating the inclination of southern families to recommend service in the US Armed Forces seems shortsighted, if not foolhardy.
Reconciliation Monument Saved?
Unusual in these cases, a judge stepped in, halting the demolition for the time being. On Dec. 17, Judge Rossie Alston ruled in favor when a group called Defend Arlington filed for a restraining order in federal court. According to a Daily Caller report, the judge’s order halted the work on removing the monument. Though removal preparations had started, a hearing on dismantling the bronze statue is scheduled for Dec. 20.
The reconciliation monument, or Confederate Memorial, is a 32-foot-high obelisk featuring a bronze female figure designed by Moses Jacob Ezekiel, a renowned sculptor, first Jewish graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, and Confederate veteran. The statue stands among approximately 400 Confederate soldiers’ graves. “She holds a laurel wreath, a plow stock, and a pruning hook, with a Biblical inscription at her feet: ‘They have beat their swords into plough-shares and their spears into pruning hooks,'” as the Arlington National Cemetery recounts in its inscription. “The Confederate Memorial offers an opportunity for visitors to reflect on the history and meanings of the Civil War, slavery, and the relationship between military service, citizenship and race in America.”
Naming Commission Goes Too Far
Establishing a Naming Commission was part of the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Bill. It was tasked with renaming all military bases, ships, and other national symbols to wipe from America’s collective memory the Confederacy, in reaction to the 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The legislation was passed with a bipartisan majority.
But earlier this month 44 Republicans sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin maintaining that the Naming Commission had overreached in its recommendation to remove the memorial and ignored a congressional request. Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) and 43 other legislators expressed displeasure with the Pentagon’s decision to eliminate the memorial and demanded the Department of Defense “immediately suspend all removal activities related to the Reconciliation Monument located in Arlington National Cemetery until Congress completes the Fiscal Year FY2024 appropriations process.”
Reference to the appropriations process perhaps signaled Congress’ intention to eliminate funds for the removal. The most compelling argument for leaving the monument stated:
“(T)he Reconciliation Monument does not honor nor commemorate the Confederacy; the memorial commemorates reconciliation and national unity … the Naming Commission’s authority explicitly prohibits the desecration of grave sites. Considering the hundreds of gravestones encircling the monument, it would be impossible for these graves to remain untouched if the Department of the Army proceeds with its proposed removal of the monument – both being a clear violation of Congress’ enacted statute and legislative intent.”
Biden Administration Loses Sight of Monument’s Significance
From a historical perspective, the reconciliation monument embodies the spirit of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant. The emotional and political wounds inflicted by the Civil War were deep and painful. Bringing North and South together in the spirit of unity was critical in salving those wounds.
At the Appomattox Court House, VA, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant with a handshake and a “gentleman’s agreement,” Harry Rubenstein wrote in the Smithsonian Magazine. “Healing the country, rather than vengeance” was the goal, so “no mass imprisonments or executions, no parading of defeated enemies through Northern streets.” Now, the Pentagon seems to perpetrate a woke social justice agenda that picks at a 160-year-old scab. Arlington National Cemetery should be a tribute to Americans unified in the hallowed ground of sacrifice.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.