Opinion Column | Washington’s Bayonette
As New York City considers removing the statues of men vital to the creation of the U.S., including George Washington, leftists are once again showing their determination to rewrite and erase history. But conservatives are losing the monument war precisely because our own defense of monuments as a whole is founded upon historical lies and false premises.
New York City has already canceled Founder Thomas Jefferson, and now the great Father of Our Country—without whom America would not exist—George Washington is potentially next in line to have his statue taken down. PJ Media reported, “Early New York governor and slaveowner Peter Stuyvesant is on the chopping block, as is Christopher Columbus, yet again.” Soon after the news first came out, I noticed someone on Twitter apologizing for not having opposed the takedown of Confederate statues before, as it has resulted in Washington et al. being removed. A number of conservatives were in sympathy with him. It was one of those moments when I found myself frustrated with both sides; when I realized that both leftists and conservatives have a lack of clear logic, and that both have something they prefer to the truth.
As someone who has agreed with neither side in the statues debate, I wanted to explain why this NYC removal is so wrong, while also making the case for removing Confederate monuments. And before you assume that those two opinions are incompatible, or that I’m advocating for what is inevitably a “slippery slope,” hear me out.
Marxists and Democrats (but I repeat myself) remove monuments to a nation’s heroes because they want to erase/rewrite history. No human is absolutely perfect, and most great men in history have had serious moral failures in one or more areas of life. We put up statues to our national heroes not because they were perfect, or because they fit our current modern code of ethics (a highly unreasonable expectation), but because they contributed something vital to this nation. America, with all her faults, brought liberty and justice and opportunity to more people than any other country in history, which is why we celebrate Columbus and Jefferson and Washington for making America possible. Symbols are essential to a society—we must have physical signs and monuments and banners to gather around, to inspire and remind us what we believe as a nation. Marxists take down our heroes because they want to impose an oligarchical tyranny, so they have to pretend that the champions of liberty and Americanism were evil.
But when it comes to Confederate monuments, the case is quite different. A nation that erects and maintains monuments to its traitors is setting itself up for failure. This is a simple fact. You cannot honestly praise treachery and then expect only loyalty from your citizens. By their own account, both by their words and actions, the Confederates proclaimed that they wanted to split and thus destroy America; they spent four bloody years trying to conquer the U.S. Army and Navy before U.S. Grant, Lincoln, and Sherman finally forced a surrender. After the war, the Confederates by and large expressed no remorse or regret. They were very proud of their traitorous actions. Indeed, they continued to implement their racist and anti-American ideals through Congress and state laws for many decades after. Thus, whether you happen to agree with their treachery or not, the fact remain they were traitors. Celebrating treachery and expecting no self-destructive consequences is like glorifying adultery and expecting your spouse to stay perfectly faithful. Or one might as well ask a man to erect a monument to the person who repeatedly drove a knife into his back.
Of course, there are also the appalling war crimes of the Confederates. There was Jefferson Davis’s letter and then the Retaliatory Act mandating by law that captured black Union soldiers and their white officers be killed or enslaved. Multiple states were ravaged by Lee’s army, rounding up every last black man, woman, and child they could (even lifelong freemen) and enslaving them; in Gettysburg alone, a thriving free black population was decimated practically overnight. There was the Ft. Pillow Massacre, after which Nathan Bedford Forrest boasted that he had dyed the river with the blood of black soldiers and their white Union officers. Confederate papers defended Forrest and, at the war’s end, Lee praised Forrest as his greatest general. But you can read my full article on the mind-blowing crimes of the Confederates and post-war Democrats; ultimately, my argument against Confederate monuments is not that they were criminals but that they were traitors. It is indeed a slippery slope to argue for take-downs based on personal morality.
And yes, statues and monuments are inherently celebratory. No person or child who looks at the magnificent statue of Stonewall Jackson at Bull Run/Manassas Battlefield would assume anything other than that it is meant to reflect positively on Jackson. We don’t put up statues to Benedict Arnold (who did in fact contribute notably to the Revolutionary War effort early on); and yet, we remember him so well that his name for centuries was a household synonym for “traitor.” We can remember history without having monuments to Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. A group of American Revolutionaries once tore down a statue of King George III and melted the metal ornaments into bullets because they understood that a statue is a celebration.
That story leads me to another point. I do not argue merely to remove Confederate statues—I want to erect statues of other American heroes who fought for civil rights in their place. Put U.S. Grant in where Robert E. Lee stood, erect Elijah Anderson on the pedestal that once held Jefferson Davis, and put Frederick Douglass or John Laurens in the place of Stonewall Jackson. Thus there would be not an erasure of history, but an education in the truths of history. Just as the Revolutionaries melted King George into bullets, we can replace Confederate monuments with patriotic American monuments.
We would then know who the real heroes of American history are, many of them men who never got the credit they deserved. American children should know that James Armistead Lafayette was key to winning the American Revolution, but they don’t; they only know that leftists say Robert E. Lee was a non-complicated white supremacist, and conservatives say he was a noble hero (neither of which assertions is accurate). I shall never forget my first experience in the Lincoln Memorial. Standing before the massive statue of Abraham Lincoln, his great speeches seemed to be burned into my memory. Monuments have power, and we should use that power wisely.
To some extent I can sympathize with the argument that people who did evil things should not be honored with monuments (as noted above with Confederate war crimes). It is a simple fact of life, however, that every single human in history has sinned. Not only that, but most people have been complicit in actions or events or systems which we as moderns find repulsive. There are some individuals for whom we can all agree on removing a statue; a thoroughly wicked mass murderer like Hitler or Stalin or Mao shouldn’t have a statue, for instance, and their monuments should be taken down. This is not an erasure of history, but a recognition that monuments are by their nature celebratory. I am not likely to get much argument here. Most other historical figures, particularly in American history, however, are not quite so simply good or bad. Even George Washington, one of the most truly excellent men that one will probably ever read of in a history book, had his signal moral failures; signing the Fugitive Slave Act, for instance. My point is that the argument for removing statues based on the individual’s morality was always a dangerous and subjective one. All have sinned, and have fallen short of our current standard of perfection.
But, again, that applies as a defense for statues of Washington or Columbus, but not for statues of Confederate leaders. Whether you agree with the Confederates or not, the plain fact—by their own account—remains that they tried to divide and destroy the United States. The Democrats, who were the Confederates, have continued their destructive work ever since the Civil War with great success, and that is partly because we put up monuments and ignored the reality of what the Confederacy stood for.
The Confederates/Democrats murdered and enslaved an unknown mass of black and white Americans during the war even off the battlefield, a war which they started so as to break apart the United States because their candidate didn’t win an election (Democrats, the party of election fraud, have always denied the legitimacy of elections that don’t go their way). The Democrats after the war continued their efforts at racial genocide, instituting tyrannical, racist laws and becoming so violent that in many places in the South for years after the war it was not safe to be a black citizen or a Republican, white or black. Murders, beatings, and brutal rapes were a fact of life. There was no such thing as a fair election where the Democrat terrorist groups like the KKK and Red Shirts held sway. And we turned a blind eye, and said we were all really just Americans who had slightly different political theories, and pretended that all was well and normal and sane. “We must have peace,” we said, our ears deaf to the screams of the thousands of victims of Democrat violence. There was no peace. It was all a lie. The war simply shifted from the battlefield to the streets and homes and voting places and halls of government. But if we didn’t see its ugliness ourselves, we didn’t care.
“This is not the Democrat Party of your grandfathers,” we are told. It is, it is! It is the Democrat Party of your great-great-great-great grandfathers. Until we admit that, the Democrats will continue to rip apart this great country of ours. This lie has brought us perilously close to national suicide. Since Andrew Jackson on, the Democrats have defined their platform with one or more anti-constitutional principles; furthermore, they have always used violence and fraud and corruption to get their way. They have violated the Constitution and boasted about it. In the 1800s they performed horrific rapes and lynchings on Republicans or black citizens. In the 2000s, they mutilate their own children’s genitals. Andrew Jackson’s men invented lies to win an election, and now the Democrat president could not tell the truth if his life depended on it. Robert E. Lee praised the racist mass murderer Nathan Bedford Forrest, and modern Democrats are obsessed with abortion. It is merely a deepening or expansion of their evil, a further progression into degradation and perversion and evil. The Confederates were traitors, and their leadership were all complicit in mass murder. That is why their monuments must come down.
Conservatives, too often, are reactionaries. We have been losing on one issue and front after another for decades because our opponents are convicted and will admit of no compromise, while we define our opinions based on what our opponents are saying now and subscribe to the historically disproved assertion that compromise is a necessary component of success. My argument about monuments is, I believe, true, and has nothing whatsoever to do with what Marxists are doing to monuments currently. We must stop being so afraid of what the other side will think, and above all we must stop defending things just because the left is attacking them. The leftists are removing monuments for all the wrong reasons. But conservatives are defending monuments with all the wrong arguments.
The traitors’ monuments must come down. Their pernicious Party—the Democrat Party—has been destroying America from within for centuries now, and we must face that reality or perish. The takedown of Washington, Jefferson, and the other founders is Marxist erasure of history, but to exchange Confederate monuments for monuments celebrating loyal patriots is a matter of national survival.