RE: Confederate Statues – A Letter to the Editor of the Dallas Morning News

On 18 August, I sent an email letter to the editor of the Dallas Morning News. As far as I know, they have not published it, so I am publishing it here for you to read.  I’ve added to it a little, because the DMN only allows 200 words via email.

The main reason the confederate monuments in Dallas TX and around the country need to be removed from publicly supported venues and that schools named for confederate “heroes” need their names changed is that the people they glorify were traitors to the United States.

The confederacy was an effort to rip apart the United States. It constituted a rebellion that resulted in a civil war that cost the lives of over 620,000 soldier and civilians. The major reason the 11 states that comprised the confederacy seceded from the United States was to maintain the institution of slavery. As disturbing as those facts are, two other facts trump them: The confederates were traitors to the Union, and they lost the war. These facts do not qualify them for laurels from the nation or U.S. cities and states.

Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings wants to study the issues of removing confederate statues from public venues and renaming schools for three months. What, exactly, is there to study? No nation erects monuments to those it has defeated. Monuments and schools should be named for those we honor and respect, and there are plenty of people who have made a positive impact on Dallas who did not fight against the United States who meet those criteria.

 

Creating a New Post-Civil War Narrative in Dallas

On Friday, 16 May 2017, New Orleans dismantled the last of its confederate Civil War monuments, a statue of General Robert E. Lee.  In place of the four monuments, Mayor Mitch Landrieu proposes installing fountains and U.S. flags.  A Lyft driver my sister and I encountered in the Big Easy in July suggested the former Lee site be made into a purple, green, and gold King (Mardi Gras) Cake with a baby on top.  No one, he said, could be upset about that since everyone loves Mardi Gras.

New Orleans has resolved its “public nuisance” problem — that is what the city council called the four statues when they determined to remove them.  Now it is time that Dallas resolved its own confederate monument problem. Fortunately, Dallas Mayor Rawlings has seen fit to address it.

In the wake the murders of nine of its African-American citizens in 2015, South Carolina finally removed the confederate battle flag from its state capitol.  Shortly thereafter in a June 2015 Dallas Morning News article reporter Elise Schmelzer documented some of the confederate markers and symbols that abound in Dallas including Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee Elementary Schools.  Fortunately, in 1999, the school named for Jefferson Davis was born anew as Barbara Jordan Elementary, named for the African-American congresswoman from Texas.

The confederate symbol I am most familiar with is the larger-than-life-size statue of Robert E. Lee that sits in Oak Lawn’s Lee Park.  I used to attend Dallas Symphony Orchestra concerts there when I lived nearby. The park was simply and appropriately Oak Lawn Park until 1936 when, during the Texas Centennial, U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt dedicated the Robert E. Lee statue.  Afterward, the park was renamed for Lee.

What in the world could Roosevelt have been thinking dedicating a statue to a confederate traitor?  Because, after all, that is what Generals Lee, “Stonewall” Jackson, and Albert Sidney Johnston, and confederate president Jefferson Davis were.  I mention the other generals and Jefferson Davis here for they adorn the confederate monument thought to be Dallas’s oldest outdoor statue.  Erected in 1897, in addition to the four most infamous traitors to the Civil War Union is a confederate soldier atop a 60-foot high pedestal around which the life-size likenesses of Lee, Jackson, Johnston, and Davis stand.  This statue sits in Pioneer Park Cemetery in downtown Dallas contiguous to our Dallas Convention Center.

Just the other day courtesy of Dallas Morning News columnist James Ragland, I learned of a confederate cemetery that sits in a predominantly African-American and Latino South Dallas community barely five minutes from downtown. What, if anything, should be done about it is another issue, something I will have to ponder.

According to Edward Sebesta, a Dallas author who is against confederate symbols, they “proclaim the white identity of Dallas.”  At the same time, they proclaim the not so hidden white supremacist narrative of the city. As Sebesta points out, such monuments and symbols are messages from those who erected them: “They are markers of territory and identity.”  And the not so distant past.

There are, it must be said, defenders of these symbols and the men they glorify. But traitors who lose their rebellions – just like toppled dictators – shouldn’t be celebrated with statues and public memorials erected in their honor.  It is unlikely that there are such memorials to Hitler in present-day Germany, or statues of Mussolini in Italy. They lost their causes.  They belong in history books and museums, but not in public places that exemplify the city’s and country’s core values and beliefs and for which the public pays the upkeep.

The fate of traitors is consignment to the dustbins of history.  Plainly and simply: the confederates lost. And but for Abraham Lincoln’s determination to forgive the traitorous rebels and desire to reunite the country, the confederate president and his minions likely would have been imprisoned or even executed for treason. No celebratory monuments should be maintained for them. It is time for a new, twenty-first century, post-Civil War narrative to be established in Dallas.

Welcome to speakingfreely.blog!

It is – I am – finally here. After weeks, months, years of talking about it, I am launching my blog. Why, you may ask, am I blogging? Because I love a good conversation, because I love to think and share ideas, and because I think I have a unique perspective. I think I have ideas not commonly seen in the mainstream mediasphere, points of view that you might find thought-provoking or funny. Or both.

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Years ago, when I lived with my parents for a few months in Las Vegas, my father and I used to sit by the pool after I came home from work and talk about everything.  I called it solving the problems of the world, that’s how wide-ranging our late evening talks were.

Amazingly enough when one got far enough away from the Strip as my parents’ house was, the night sky presented itself in all its sparkling glory. The stars were like diamonds on black velvet and we watched them as we talked. I only lived with them for a few months before finding my own apartment, and then moving to Manhattan, but those few brief few months were some of the best times of my life. Speakingfreely.blog is dedicated to Garnet Terry and Lois Tabor Ice who always offered me the best of everything in life, and especially to my father who always was interested in my thoughts and encouraged me to speak freely.

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