What Statues Say 

Growing up in Virginia, I attended an elementary school named after the Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart. Had my school not been named after him, I would certainly not have remembered his place in Civil War History. This leaves me to question, what do we really feel we are gaining by memorializing and edifying civil war generals; men who declared and perpetuated war against The United States of America? Isn’t that considered treason? Stuart was an officer in the U.S. Army before he defected and became a Confederate General. 

We can teach history to students without erecting statues nor naming roads and schools after civil war generals. The truth is that we build statues in memory of lives lost or those who we see as being triumphant. 

Who in the U.S. would be able to successfully petition to have a public statue or monument built for the men who flew planes into the Pentagon or The World Trade Center Towers? How is keeping civil war generals any different, really?

My mind is filled with the many images of U.S. Troops tearing down the statues of Hussein after capturing Baghdad. When Baghdad fell, it was only natural that Hussein’s statues did also. 

So what are we saying when we keep these civil war statues in place? Personally, I feel it’s a testament to the pervasiveness of the roots of racism to continue to keep these statues in place. Images speak loudly to what we value. 


8 thoughts on “What Statues Say 

  1. It’s such a sensitive and important issue. I think that it should be noted that the Confederate states declared secession from the United States, which is something that California is considering today. I don’t know legally if that is treason, but if so, I would imagine that it’s as treasonous today as it was back then. But I digress. I think that the statues that were placed during the Jim Crow and forward should be considered for removal. However, we have to be careful that we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Some of the statues, as offensive as they may be, are part of our cultural heritage. I wrote a post on this subject recently and I hope that you give it a look:

    Liked by 1 person

      • What we lack today is context around how the nation was at our founding and up through through the Civil War. The states were much more important to a citizen’s allegiance. General Lee resigned from the Union Army because he couldn’t draw his sword on Virginia. Also, the states willingly entered the Union for common defense and probably had the legal right to leave the Union. The legality for this is why Jefferson Davis (Confederate President) was never tried for treason. State rights and sovereignty was really what the Civil War was about…to include trading tariffs that were ultimately having a negative impacting Southern agricultural exports. Slavery was wrong, no doubt about it. But, the vast majority of Southerners weren’t fighting for slavery…they didn’t have slaves. They were fighting for their States and to defend their homeland. This is what the Confederate monuments symbolize. The loser of a war doesn’t get to control the narrative or the history though. We don’t see states the way our ancestors did…today, they have little meaning in our lives. At the onset of the Civil War, your state was everything, A true patriot fought for his state, died for his state, and was memorialized and honored by the citizens of that state. General Robert E. Lee is one of my most admired historical figures. He was a hero of the Mexican War, West Point Superintendent, and was married the granddaughter of George Washington. After the Civil War he passed up a fortune in endorsements to commit himself to educating the young men of the South and healing wounds with the North. His resignation from the Union read, “Save in defense of my native Virginia, I never again hope to draw my sword.” He was a great Virginian…and American. Many want to reduce him to fighting for slavery and being treasonous. To do so is intellectually lazy and misinformed. If we lived in the times of the Civil War, almost every single one of us men would have fought for our state. It is too easy to look back 150 years later and say differently.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I do recall the connection to the state and desire to protect Virginia as reasons given by several for joining the Confederacy. However, I would say that few today see the states’ rights as being the main reason for the Civil war anymore. It has been reduced, in many minds, to being a war over slavery and thus the racial issues that are inherent within that are drawn to the surface. Even if the masses are not understanding of the history, civil war statues have come to symbolize something greater than the Generals that they depict…
        Thank you for sharing your knowledge and passion re: Gen Lee. He stood up and fought for what he believed in, and as punishment (if I recall correctly) his home was then turned into Arlington Cemetery.

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      • I think I understand the pattern of thought. We’ll be power blasting Washington and Jefferson off Mount Rushmore soon and removing all memories of them from public display. After all, how can we possibly honor such men…men who espoused freedom from oppression yet denied it to others. Well, I’ve said my bit on this. This was a thought provoking post Tiffany and certainly a flash point. Hope you’ve had a wonderful summer and that life is treating you well. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t recall Washington and Jefferson being Civil War Generals. I’ll review my history… And not open another can of worms 😊
        Thank you for the well wishes. I hope you’re also enjoying your summer!

        Liked by 1 person

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