At the center of the current chaos is a statue memorializing Robert E. Lee. It depicts the Confederacy’s top general, larger than life, astride a horse, both green with oxidation.
In addition to many of Lee’s atrocities, soldiers under his command at the Battle of the Crater in 1864 massacred black Union soldiers who tried to surrender. Then, in a spectacle hatched by Lee’s senior corps commander A.P. Hill, the Confederates paraded the Union survivors through the streets of Petersburg to the slurs and jeers of the southern crowd. Lee never discouraged such behavior. As the historian Richard Slotkin wrote in No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, “his silence was permissive.”
So the way I see it, silence is permissive. We have a leader today who would be silent on the issue of racism, slavery, white supremacy, neo-Nazi’s, etc..
But is this the issue, really? A statue started all of this? Wouldn’t destroying this image be a way of silencing history? Shouldn’t we instead go back to the root of the problem? Back to a time even before slavery in America, even before the idea of white supremacy – to a time when the world was great? How about a time when man was working on the Bible?
A lot of protestors out there are quite familiar with the teachings of the good book, citing the Bible to justify some of their causes and actions. There is plenty written in those pages about statues, for instance:
“Do not turn to idols or make metal gods for yourselves. I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 19:4
“You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god — which you made for yourselves.” Amos 5:26
“If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.” Joshua 24:20
“Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 26:1
“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone–an image made by human design and skill.” Acts 17:29
So, these are just a few examples about what the bible has to say about carved stones being erected in our land. But, should we now set out to topple all of the graven images erected across our amber waves of grain, our purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain (our “blood and soil”)? We’re a democracy and so if a majority want the statues gone, then so be it. And, although this is not the same, but then what about the Mount Rushmore presidents, or the statue of Lincoln at his memorial, or the Washington Memorial? (Say, is that statue of Marilyn Monroe exposing her panties still standing on Michigan Avenue in Chicago?)
Will destroying those images erase history or simply be a reminder not to repeat it – not to go back?
Yes, I may be taking this issue out of context, and oversimplifying the matter, but after all, just like the bible is subject to many interpretations, everyone is entitled to their opinion. And, isn’t the answer simple? Love and acceptance and freedom? Isn’t that why a lot of us came to America?
Unfortunately, the copper cat is out of the bag. One of the largest images erected in this country sits at the very border of our eastern shores, welcoming everyone no matter their creed or color: “Give me your tired, your poor — Your huddled masses yearning to breathe FREE.” (Again, this is not the same, but can you just imagine overthrowing this green lady?)