Tearing Down Monuments: Beginning of a Sequel to the Civil War?

  08-Jul-2020 13:55:05

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On the 4th of July, 2020, President Donald Trump stood at Mount Rushmore and made a vow to the world that Mount Rushmore would “never be desecrated and these heroes would never be defaced”. Unless there was suspicion of terrorist threats of the likes of 9/11, it would seem bizarre for a president to issue a promise of that kind. But the times we live in seem to rival fiction in terms of idiocracy. According to the far right, “the woke left” has used an unfortunate incident to pioneer a rampage to destroy every symbol in America that signifies a portion of history and they won’t stop until the whole of America is left without identity. That on the surface seems like a compelling argument to prevent any harm against monuments. After all, statues and monuments are just objects made from hard material to look like a person. They can’t harm anybody. And if you’re offended by a statue, then you’re just being a ‘snowflake’. History may be passed, but our understanding of it is evolving with time. We can put it on trial and cross-examine it all we want. However, should we also deliver the sentence and carry out the execution? That should not be the norm in a civilized society. But it’s not that simple. And the statues in question carry a dark message with them. To unravel it, we’ll have to go back 150 years. Consider the facts, and you decide what’s right and what’s wrong.

The year was 1861 when Jefferson Davis, the president of states seceded from the USA, collectively known as The Confederacy, leading an army of Confederates attacked Fort Sumter, a military base of ‘The Union’, of which Abraham Lincoln was the president. This marked the beginning of the bloodiest war America had ever seen, killing almost 1/3rd of the fighting-age men at the time. And what caused two factions of the same country to go on a murdering rampage against their brothers for nearly half-a-decade? The tension between North and South was mounting for years. The southern states accused the federal government of trying to take away the rights of the states. Then there was the case of the economy. The northern economy at that time was booming with industrialization, while the southern states had farming climates and depended on plantations for their economy. This is crucial. The ‘machines’ used for cotton plucking among other things in the south, were black men and women. And therein lies the main cause of civil war: slavery.

The atrocities committed against slaves across history are well-documented. So it stands to reason that having to witness statues of slave supporters every day that treated their ancestors lower than animals would terrorize any African American and should mortify any American citizen. The confederates were initially traitors, and finally losers. ‘The right’ claims that statues are history, and tearing down these monuments would erase their heritage. But statues aren’t a means for remembering history. Statues and monuments are for glorifying people or events. And slavery is a dark period which should be remembered, for those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. But celebrating an era that exploited black people for economic gains is evil at an intrinsic level. It is comical that Republican party and its supporters are campaigning for the protection of these monuments when the greatest president the United States have ever seen, Mr. Abraham Lincoln, the man who strived to cleanse the nation of slavery and went to war with his brothers for that noble cause, was a republican and the very first Republican president. Another important aspect is that most of the confederate monuments were built decades after the civil war. Right about the time when racial segregation laws were enforced to ensure black Americans remained destitute. The confederate flags and monuments became a symbol of white supremacy. If the confederacy wasn’t about racism before, it certainly was now. In this day and age where tweeting something insensitive can lead to a lifetime ban, what chance do these symbols of racial oppression from bygone eras stand?

Then again, soldiers follow orders. They don’t get to choose what’s right and wrong. The South as a whole was fighting to sustain slavery. But we do not know the individual motive of each soldier risking death to fight in a war against his brother. They were defending their motherland. The South faced overwhelming odds in the war. They were vastly outnumbered and had inferior technology, yet they fought with courage and nearly emerged victorious. And the statues that were built to commemorate their bravery is understood, if not condoned. But using it to exalt white supremacy against their dark-skinned counterparts is disgraceful.

The American conservatives are afraid. They fear that these public outrages and vandalism against statues won’t stop until every last historical monument is destroyed. There is some truth to that. We can’t judge everyone from history on today’s moral standards. And everyone is flawed somehow. People who were worshipped by previous generations might be vilified today. The same could happen to us. Time turns everyone into a bigot. It was fear of abolishing slavery that caused The Civil War. Now there’s a fear of erasing history. One thing is for sure, with tensions mounting higher than ever, the people of America need to find some middle ground, or another civil war could be on its way.

Written by: Anagh