This morning on social media, progressives (yes, PROGRESSIVES) were arguing among themselves that tearing down Confederate memorials is “erasing history” and “Why not just tear down the White House?”
I feel sick. And it’s been a long week of feeling sick.
Our nation’s white founders murdered millions of Native Americans and African/African-American slaves during its first few centuries. Yet today I’m hearing allegedly progressive white people argue that these Confederate memorials to men who fought to defend a dehumanizing and murderous institution are just “history.” They’re arguing they are not symbols of hatred and they should be preserved. “We can’t erase our history,” they were saying. Seriously. Progressives .
One thought started throbbing migraine-like in my head: Tear all the motherfuckers down!
There aren’t thousands of Nazi memorials across Germany, are there? No, in Germany they actually memorialize the victims of the their genocidal war, of their concentration camps, not the soldiers who murdered them.
Americans, man, that just never occurred to us.
Americans, though, act as if these memorials serve as some kind of personal tombstone to these dead Confederate soldiers. No, they aren’t, and there is nothing dignified about memorializing the fact that your great-great-grandfather once killed other men in service of the Confederacy. As one insightful Tweeter noted, “You want a memorial, go to his grave.”
But it gets better. By which I mean even more repugnant.
At a chaotic press conference this afternoon, Orange Glowy Face Maggot Breath Death Monster himself jumped into the Confederate statue debate, remarking that both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had owned slaves, then asked “Are we going to take down Thomas Jefferson’s statue?”
This echoed an attempted misdirection I engaged in with a progressive on Twitter earlier in the day. She argued that the logic that defends removing Confederate memorials (of which there are 200+ in Virginia alone) would also require that we tear down the White House. Why? “It was built by slaves,” she Tweeted.
This is conflating issues. Remain focused. The argument isn’t that these edifices were built by slaves, my dumbass friend, it’s that they memorialize and romanticize slaveholders and their military.
Why the misdirection? Because there is no defense of memorializing soldiers who fought for an ideology that allowed them to dehumanize and enslave other human beings. Particularly it is offensive because almost no memorials have been built for the enslaved black people who suffered and died under slavery for centuries during the establishment of this country.
End of argument. To continue is to pursue the argument stated above, that there should be memorials to Nazis and Hitler dotted across Germany. There aren’t, there shouldn’t be, and the Germans are much better people for it. They had the common fucking sense to admit that they followed monsters into World War II and that it was an epic catastrophe, an unforgivable mistake.
Americans weren’t so wise as regards their symbols of hate or memorials to the soldiers who fought for them.
Americans saw the Confederate flag come back into popularity in the early 1900s , following its appearance the film Birth of a Nation and later in Gone with the Wind. It’s current symbolism – ostensibly of “Southern pride” but transparently in service of racist politics – emerged with the Dixiecrat political party of Strom Thurmond.
Confederate memorials themselves have a history of sporadic construction. As David Graham wrote in The Atlantic last year, the largest increase in construction was around the turn of the twentieth century
“just after Plessy v. Ferguson (which upheld racial segregation laws), and just as many Southern states were establishing repressive race laws. The second (spurt) runs from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s – the peak of the civil rights movement. In other words, the erection of Confederate monuments has been a way to perform cultural resistance to black equality.”
Attempts (and there have been millions of them) to defend these symbols and memorials as some benign Southern pride inevitably fail to mollify most black Americans who see them as romanticizing the soldiers and slave holders who murdered millions of their ancestors. Black Americans are right to remain uncomfortable with them. They symbolize the pride of an ideology that imagines itself self-righteous, Christian, and basically proud of a culture that believed black people are inherently inferior to them in all walks of life.
This is horseshit of the deepest kind.
Almost no memorials to black slaves have been built over the century-and-a-half since the Civil War ended. That this is the case reflects a profound moral lapse on the part of white Americans then and now. If the United States is going to have tens of thousands of memorials, they should almost all be memorializing the lost lives of Native Americans and black slaves who died at the hands of white soldiers and slaveholders.
In my Twitter argument this morning, my “friend” suggested a solution to this problem: “So build a bunch of new memorials for them!”
Well there’s a thought, Einstein. You’d think we should have gotten around to that a lot sooner than now. To do so would likely be wildly insincere since it would be done only as a way to preserve memorials to the oppressors, not to genuinely memorialize the oppressed.
But we haven’t built memorials to the dead slaves, and odds are we never will.
America, let me tell you, you are the bastard child of white European colonialism, technical advantages and the violent rape and murder of two other cultures, one red, one black.
Your citizens steadfastly celebrate those murderers. Shamelessly, they pretend such horrors were small incidental things, and not really what we should concern ourselves with studying or remembering.
Bastard child indeed, covered in the blood and Santorum that you were birthed from.
We should put that on a statue.
Memorials should memorialize the truth, and if we’re going to persist in hiding from ours, we need a whole new set of granite-and-bronze reminders in our parks and town squares all over this country.
Maybe then we’ll develop the shame and humility to genuinely end racism in America.