No one deplores the hypocrisy of some of our early historical heroes more than I, and few make it a point to bring attention to their astounding duplicity as much as I do. Nevertheless, I say, let's not destroy the monuments but rather let's use them to educate. Destroying them would very likely erase the lessons from their shortcomings and increase the likelihood of future folly.
Before we completely vilify those who fought for an unjust cause we must acknowledge that people are complex. The Confederate icons are no exception. As a West Pointer, the Cadet records of Lee and Jackson were still legendary during my time at the Academy. T.J. Jackson apparently had such presence of personality that upperclassmen refused to haze him all during his Plebe Year! R.E. Lee suffered zero demerits during his entire Cadet career - ZERO! (I suffered zero during the entirety of Beast Barracks - Basic Training - but Upperclassmen made sure I got caught up during the rest of Plebe Year! Lee's was an amazing accomplishment!) Lee also turned the Academy towards modernity in its structure and designed the Full dress hat that is worn during many parades to this day.
I abhor the cause these men defended, but I can still recognize their admirable qualities and understand that they contributed as much to the American experience as they damaged. Their inconsistent records are cases in point of the peril of good people being caught up in their own pride and refusing to call evil by its name and failing to oppose it in the name of a lesser loyalty.
Their mistakes must not be forgotten and the great suffering caused by their rebellion must remain before us in our collective historical memory. Therefore, I say, keep the monuments. Teach the whole truth! We cannot afford to allow history to repeat itself.
|Me, Samuel D Jackson, in front of a monument to Confederate Veterans at Port Gibson, Mississippi ca. 1966.|