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Sacrifice Certain Statues

Oct 11, 2017

To the Editor:

As a yearly visitor to LBI I am always impressed with SandPaper letters. But recently I jumped at “Overwhelming Response” (9/27) concerning the statues controversy. The writer opined that we need more history and in particular “true history” and “the whole history,” seeming to imply that removing statues of Confederate heroes from the public square would lessen that truth and wholeness.

Is there such a thing as “true” or “whole” history? I doubt it. It’s been said that winners of wars get to write the history, but I think history is constantly being written from many different viewpoints, including the losers’. More history is inevitable. Even so, the entire story is never told; Lincoln intimated as much at Gettysburg.

For example, is R.E. Lee’s statue necessary to a true and whole history? Statues are to honor someone and perhaps to remind us years later of the context of the honor. To learn about our unique Civil War one must turn to books, films, the internet and spend more time than a look at a statue requires.

Slavery in our country was very different from slavery, for example, in Greece, where it was a practice of war. There the conquered slaves were usually other Europeans. Enslaving Africans even before we were a country was a lucrative business carried on for centuries. Freed Greek slaves blended into Greek society (even the few dark-skinned ones). Freed American slaves faced a century of Jim Crow (in many ways worse than slavery). Enslaved, they were like cars that were owned and cared for; under Jim Crow like rental cars. And today since color and features often set them apart, blending in is not easy. President Obama as a young man was stopped by police.

Perhaps we can sacrifice the small bit of history imparted by statues of Confederates (who lest we forget were traitors) in the public square, and try to understand and empathize with what our fellow Americans of African background must feel when they look at those statues. Statues could be in museums where we may learn that Lee was a very decent man whose deep feeling for his home and family led him to make a difficult decision. One of his direct descendants, a minister, does not think his statue should remain in public places.

History takes a back seat to science in our schools, but it is so important, as dictators maintain power by twisting and erasing history. Perhaps those displaying Confederate flags in the 21st century should emulate Germans, who I am sure know the history of WWII well without statues of Hitler in their public squares, and who have well learned the lessons of that war. 

Sandy Miley

Sherrill, N.Y.

 

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