There’s the simple concept of being taught about history so that we don’t repeat it. History lessons are taught so that we learn about how we have evolved. It’s to ensure we don’t make the same mistakes over and over again. If we get rid of history simply because it hurts someone’s feelings, where does that leave us as a society?
In Northern Virginia, there’s a five-foot story statue of Robert E. Lee. While he was a part of the South and, therefore, the “enemy,” he is a major part of the history of the United States. His story tells of how there was a Civil War, and how the country was able to grow stronger after the war that happened from within.
Governor Ralph Northam has ordered that the statue be taken down. Why? Apparently, it’s causing people to feel pain all over again in light of George Floyd’s death.
The statue has been in place since 1890. We, as a country, have come a long way since then. Still, it serves as a reminder. It’s a part of history. If we were to remove everything that causes people pain about what the country used to be, we would have nothing left.
A judge in Richmond has issued an injunction to prevent the governor’s administration from removing the statue for at least the next 10 days. The injunction order sites a deed that was recorded in 1890 where the state of Virginia accepted to “affectionately protect” the statue, pedestal, and ground they sit on.
According to the governor’s spokeswoman, Ralph Northam remains “committed to removing this divisive symbol.”
What else is considered divisive as it pertains to American history, however? All of our founding forefathers were slave owners. Is that divisive? Perhaps, then, we should look at redoing all of our currency.
We’re destroying history as a way to appease a small percentage of the population – and it doesn’t stop with the statue of Robert E. Lee in Northern Virginia, either.
Other symbols have been removed around the nation over the past two weeks, too. This includes A slave auction block that stood for 176 years was removed from the downtown area of Fredericksburg, Virginia. A bronze statue of Admiral Ralph Semmes that has been around for 120 years was removed from the waterfront of Mobile, Alabama. The list goes on and on.
Was the slave block actually causing anyone harm? No. It’s been there for over a century. Did Admiral Ralph Semmes do something to suddenly invoke hate? No. It’s been a silent reminder of history for decades.
The rioters and protesters choose one or two things to be upset about. Do they have a right to be upset about the way in which George Floyd died? Of course. However, how does getting rid of historical sites make it any better? We need these physical reminders of how far we have come to ensure that we never go back there.
Germany keeps its concentration camps up as museums to remind themselves of their dark history. All throughout the world, there are pieces of history that do not highlight the very best of a country.
If statues of Robert E. Lee are really going to come down, we need to take a good look at the rest of history’s icons. He went from war hero to racist. We’re not looking at the historical aspects where it wasn’t racist – it was simply part of the way the world was back then. Someone may want to talk to the protesters about Thomas Jefferson, too. He was a slave owner and, yet, he’s depicted on nickels and two-dollar bills.
We must embrace history to ensure we don’t repeat it. Getting rid of statues and museums because they’re suddenly offensive is not going to suddenly bring populations together. It is not the statues that are divisive – it is the communities that are failing to engage in any kind of dialogue to improve things.