Memorialize the Confederacy, but don’t celebrate it

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COMMENTARY: In response to Mr. Swickard’s defense of Confederate statues, I fail to see what our country’s impact on liberty worldwide had to do with the celebration of the Confederacy. The two subjects are at best unrelated, and should really be seen as contradictory. Can we really claim to be a beacon of liberty when during much of our history we considered liberty as the domain of white man only?

Bobby Murphy

Courtesy photo

Bobby Murphy

Acknowledging that historical figures had their flaws (e.g. Washington/Jefferson) is closer to a valid argument, but celebrating people who achieved greatness in spite of their flaws is still a far cry from celebrating the Confederacy, and the leaders therein, whose claim to (in)fame is treason, war and death in support of slavery.

Mr. Swickard makes the claim, “Rather than taking down statues and screaming about justice, perhaps we need to really understand our history, with the blemishes.” But he fails to explain why this is an either/or choice. (Also, referring to a civil war in support of slavery, in which nearly as many Americans died as have in all our other wars combined, as a “blemish” could be the granddaddy of all understatements.)

Of course history should be remembered, studied, taught. A celebratory statue does not aid in this endeavor.

That brings us to what we as a nation, or at least a large segment of it, need to face: The difference between memorialization and celebration. Readers can look up the definitions easily enough, should they be bothered to. But in practical example, we have memorialized, not celebrated, the Trail of Tears as well as the Japanese internment camps. Conspicuously, neither memorial has statues of the men who made the decisions to commit these acts, nor the men who carried them out.

There is no mystery. We know who these men were. They just do not deserve a statue for the decisions/acts. Why exactly should the Confederacy be different?

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As a child I watched the enormous carvings of Davis, Lee, and Jackson on the side of Stone Mountain come to life in a laser light show each 4th of July. It was celebration, pure and simple, though I did not yet understand the significance. I do now, and am ashamed for the adults who knew the significance and celebrated anyway.

We have shameful parts to our great nation’s history, there is no doubt. Part of that shame is allowing the celebration of Confederate icons to go on as long as it has. Until corrected, our claims to be a beacon of liberty to the world do not ring of American exceptionalism, but American hypocrisy.

Bobby Murphy was brought to New Mexico at the tender age of 10. He recently had to face middle age, which wasn’t too terrible, thanks in large part to support from the world’s greatest wife. Agree with his opinion? Disagree? NMPolitics.net welcomes your views. Learn about submitting your own commentary here.

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