Nachison: Lee Understood That Confederate Memorials Are A Bad Idea

Aug 28, 2017

Commentary: We waste time with two-way arguments and violence about keeping confederate memorials and Lee’s battle flag alive - or not.  Why?  Some say it’s American - or racist history, etc, on and on from both sides.  Even if some sort of compromiser was possible, this is a 2017 political mess.  

Outside of news overhype, we daily see some trials and tribulations of 1865-1875.  It doesn’t matter if its black voting, carpetbaggers, reconstruction, ascending Jim Crow or whatnot; it didn’t have to happen this way.   Other than President Johnson’s pardon of confederates in 1868, former General Robert E. Lee was the clearest American thinker of his time   His words put today's president, neo-nazis and the like in the bag where they belong.  Perhaps he really was prescient.

He detested the ideas of statues to confederates.  In 1866 proposal for a Stonewall Jackson statue he said: ”As regards the erection of such a monument as is contemplated, my conviction is, that, however grateful it would be to the feelings of the South, the attempt, in the present condition of the country, would have the effect of retarding instead of accelerating its accomplishment, and of continuing if not adding to the difficulties under which the Southern people labor.” (NY Times) 

Lee historian Johnathan Horn states "He was worried that by keeping these symbols alive, it would keep the divisions alive.” … “he favored erasing battlefields from the landscape altogether…” ... “He even supported getting rid of the Confederate flag after the Civil War. He didn't want it flying above Washington College, of which he was president after the war.” (Business Insider)

General Lee became bigger than most of us over time.   He understood that unlike what might become our parks and plazas later, most nations relegated their internal strife to books and museums.