Recently, there has been a great deal of controversy over the removal from public spaces of Civil War memorials and monuments dedicated to those who served in, and led, the Confederacy. Nowhere has it been more vitriolic than in the city of New Orleans. This should serve as a surprise to no one since that city was known in particular as the hub of the slave trade and for its unwavering, almost virulent, support of Southern Secession.
The current mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, has been an eloquent supporter of the removal of the monuments. For this he has received innumerable death threats and is under around-the-clock police protection. Threatened violence by opponents of their removal has forced the city to do so only under the cover of darkness.
Supporters of their removal reason that they have no further place in American society. They honor men who advocated secession, if not slavery directly. Because they broke their oath of allegiance to the United States many even see them as traitors. Therefore, they question are they truly worthy of just such an honor?
Opponents counter by saying that we can't deny history and these men (the statues and memorials are all of men) are part of Southern history and heritage. They believed in their "nation", i.e. cause, and served it honorably. THIS is what they want memorialized. Because of the negative connection with slavery and oppression used by those seeking them gone, they argue that if we remove these monuments, we might as well remove other great, historic sites if they were also associated with slavery and despotic behavior, like the Pyramids of ancient Egypt or the Roman Colosseum.
To this I respond their is a HUGE difference between the two. Although most ancient historic sites were built largely (but, not exclusively!) by slave labor for despotic masters, they were not created post factum to specifically HONOR those who enslaved and abused them as is the case with the Civil War memorials. In a sense, the South is asking 14% of the American population (46 million people), which is the percentage of Black Americans, to accept honoring those whom enslaved them! And, this does not count those other Americans who are as equally outraged by the very idea of celebrating those who sought to abolish the Union! Southern Generals can be honored in the appropriate place like a museum - not in a public space in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
The great general and savior of the Union, Ulysses S. Grant, who, along with President Abraham Lincoln, probably paid the most pivitol roles in the defeat of the Confederacy, expressed my sentiments (and those who are in support of the removal) most eloquently in his brilliant memior:
“As time passes, people, even of the South, will begin to wonder how it was possible that their ancestors ever fought for or justified institutions which acknowledged the right of property in man.”