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Removing Statues Ignores the Meaningful Reasons in Which They Were Erected

“After the Civil War, the West Point Academy had a decision to make since a good deal of its graduates had fought for the South.”

Much like the shooting in 2015, the events at Charlottesville last weekend have renewed the Democrat’s interest in war history. New York Members of Congress Kirsten Gillibrand and Patrick Maloney want the Lee barracks to be renamed. They claim it is time to remove the honors to Confederate generals in their districts. The problem is that the names of Confederate generals were added in the last 150 years as a way to show reconciliation to the conquered south. Thus, the knee jerk reactions to remove Lee from any building or statue are incredibly ironic as historic places dedicated to love are being whitewashed and erased in the name of love.

Robert E. Lee was an incredible military commander and graduate of West Point. He is the only cadet never to receive a demerit in the typical four years at the academy. He graduated second in his class in 1829, and returned to run the academy as a Colonel in the 1850s. His story is similar to many of the generals who fought in the South during the Civil War.

After the Civil War, the West Point Academy had a decision to make since a good deal of its graduates had fought for the South. Instead of erasing them from history, West Point decided to include them in their history by naming streets and barracks after them as a way to reconcile the regional tensions.

Given that West Point is the premiere academy training America’s future military leaders, this should be an opportunity to teach students about the importance of remembering all of the past. Instead, most humanities professors are more concerned with lesbian yoga theory instead of the historic fundamentals such as the need for context with any monument.

We are again experiencing a time of racial tension in the country. But until last week most people probably couldn’t point out Robert E. Lee and his connection to the South anyway. A study by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute found that only half of the adults in the country could name the three branches of government, and only 18 percent were proficient in 8th grade history.

“The solution to the rhetoric and anger has always been to better understand and appreciate history.”

In addition to people that don’t know and professors that don’t care, I doubt these liberal New York politicians know little more than how to score political points. It becomes an especially bitter irony that politicians and people are calling for names to be changed and statues removed, when many of them, such as the barracks at West Point, and a dedicated plot for Confederate soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery, were done as part of a way to show love and respect to their former enemies. As Lincoln said in his second inaugural address, these were ways to “show malice towards none but charity to all.”

Some Confederate monuments, such as a 1924 statue in New Orleans, were erected as a way to express white supremacy. But the country can’t be in such a hurry to whitewash its history and appease the angry identity politics mob that they overlook and erase genuine attempts at building peace.

The solution to the rhetoric and anger has always been to better understand and appreciate history. America’s history contains scenes of horrible events, but within those events were the seeds that rectified those insults. Slavery was ended by white Republican men. British and American ships stopped the slave trade. And the winners of the Civil War tried to reconcile with their defeated foes. That is a history that shouldn’t be obscured by politicians trying to score points.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Morgan Deane

Morgan Deane is a former U.S. Marine Corps infantry rifleman. Deane also served in the National Guard as an Intelligence Analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming book Decisive Battles in Chinese history, as well as Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents: Ancient Warfare in the Book of Mormon.

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