Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/29/2019: The White House Correspondents Dinner, Robert E. Lee, And The Boy Scouts” {Item #2]

Yesterday a Virginia judge ruled that the statues of Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee  were removed in Charlottesville were war memorials—I would thin that was obvious—and thus were removed illegally. Gee, I guess that means that those evil, racist, white supremacists who marched to block the statue-toppling were right. Imagine that.

State law holds that only the state legislature can remove a Virginia war memorial, which seems reasonable. Illegal or not, it’s the position here that tearing down statues of historical figures whose lives and deeds may not comport with modern day sensibilities is akin to Soviet-style historical editing, a to in the water of thought-control and indoctrination, and to be avoided at all costs. As you may have noticed, I’m not giving up on this issue, because the integrity of the historical record, including the heroes of past generations, is worth fighting for. (You can review the extensive musings on this topic by clicking on the “Confederate statuary ethics train wreck”  and “historical air-brushing” tags below, and by searching for “statues” and “Robert E. Lee.”)

Thus I welcome Steve-O-in NJ’s typically passionate commentary on the simplification of the Civil War into good and evil, and the denigration of Lee. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post,Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/29/2019: The White House Correspondents Dinner, Robert E. Lee, And The Boy Scouts:

At this point the Left has pretty much dismissed any and all other grounds for the south to fight other than slaver, saying other grounds are just bullshit to cover that. They also won’t hear you out if you disagree. A lot of them agree with Jim Wright of Stonekettle Station who said “Fuck Robert E. Lee, he was a traitor, pull down his statue, melt it down, recast it into urinals. Piss on the Confederacy.”

I don’t repost this to emphasize the angry or profane nature of what was said. There is a (limited) place for anger and profanity in life. I repost it instead to illustrate the ignorance and arrogance that have become the left’s stock in trade. Historical figures and history are properly the province of scholarship or at least of reasoned discussion. Books upon books have been written about Robert E. Lee’s life. There are books upon books about the various aspects of his life, including that fateful day at Arlington three days after Virginia seceded and two days after he was offered command of the Union Army when, after much thought, he wrote the short enough missive to General Winfield Scott, his old commander which I here present in its entirety:


Since my interview with you on the 18th instant I have felt that I ought not longer to retain my commission in the Army. I therefore tender my resignation, which I request you will recommend for acceptance.

It would have been presented at once, but for the struggle it has cost me to separate myself from a service to which I have devoted all the best years of my life & all the ability I possessed.

During the whole of that time, more than 30 years, I have experienced nothing but kindness from my superiors, & the most cordial friendship from my companions. To no one Genl have I been as much indebted as to yourself for uniform kindness & consideration, & it has always been my ardent desire to merit your approbation.

I shall carry with me to the grave the most grateful recollections of your kind consideration, & your name & fame will always be dear to me. Save in the defense of my native State, I never desire again to draw my sword.

Be pleased to accept my most earnest wishes for the continuance of your happiness & prosperity & believe me most truly yours

R. E. Lee

Lee had spent two days thinking this through. He’d been an officer in the Army for more than 30 years, and a good one, so much so that in his days as a (brevet) colonel in the Mexican-American War Scott described him as “the very finest soldier I ever saw in the field,” while his contemporary Grant was “an untidy young captain.” His father was one of Washington’s officers (Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee), and I’m sure the irony of trying to take apart the nation his dad helped to create wasn’t lost on him. He actually wanted no part of the coming conflict as he wrote this, and didn’t want to even fight again, except to defend Virginia. Unfortunately it did in fact come to that. His views on slavery and the races were complicated, but not out of line for his time, and certainly not as unenlightened as many more southerners. He is not a simplistic traitor by any means. Others have even said he broke the oath he took upon his commissioning. Any of these issues could fill a book, or at least an article if one is not inclined to read a huge book on Lee, and you’d come away with answers, but also more questions.

I doubt that Jim Wright, or most of the left, has/have read any such book, article, or even Lee’s resignation letter, nor would they be inclined to, since they’ve already made up their minds, the facts be damned. It’s very easy to say “Fuck x” and dismiss it with one sentence of half opinion, half obscene instructions. However, that is enshrining ignorance and arrogance: I don’t know and I don’t care. It’s the thinking that makes Irish-Americans’ brains liquefy and trickle out their ears the moment you point out that their history with England isn’t that simple. It’s the thinking that turns Christopher Columbus from bold but brutal navigator and high achiever of a brutal time to either a nothing or an architect of genocide overnight. It’s the thinking that’s led half this country to believe the president is a racist, when he’s never said a single racist thing that’s been recorded or even rumored. If you dare say anything against any of this, at best you get ignored. At worst you get shouted down:

“Shut up! this isn’t a debate!”
“Free speech doesn’t include hate speech!”
“If you don’t have something liberal to say, then shut up, bigot!”

Not too far to “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.”

18 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/29/2019: The White House Correspondents Dinner, Robert E. Lee, And The Boy Scouts” {Item #2]

  1. Does this mean San Antonio will have to replace the statue of Lee in Travis Park that they clandestinely removed at midnight?

    • Highly unlikely since the city counsel voted 10-1 to remove it. I’m surprised that they haven’t dismantled the Alamo. After all some of the men there owned slaves.

        • I know that one man that fought there and was shot/bayoneted but survived was a slave. I can’t find any information about slaves that died at the Alamo. Anything that you know about this?

          • Couldn’t give you a source, Wayne. I was told by one of the guides at the Alamo that three slaves elected to stay and fight. As you mentioned, one was bayoneted but survived. The other two died. Right now, I can’t even remember any names.

      • I had written about this before, the utter and insane hypocrisy, of using the Alamo defenders as an example of honor to tear down President Trump. Mexico had abolished slavery in 1833, with a stay in Texas until 1834. Texas then declared independence in 1835.

        Using the US Civil War logic, they could only have declared independence out of support for racial oppression and slavery. The same people calling for Generally Lee and Jackson to be removed were celebrating the Alamo defenders as standing up to the “nativists of their era”, an explicit dig at the current president of the United States.

        If there were any honesty in this movement, they would have to denounce the Alamo. Instead, it reveals their cowardice. Any politician that attacked the Alamo would be dead to Texas, and much of the nation. (It is also terrifying that Columbus and certainly Washington once had this same universal aura protecting their legacies).

        It is simply not politically expedient to be academically honest.

        • If you are seriously suggesting that the Texas Revolution hinged on slavery, I earnestly suggest that you delve further into Mexican and Texan history.

  2. I am glad Steve’s commentary was selected as a COTD. There are several here whose essays or opinions I do not want to miss. Steve in NJ is one if them.

  3. Thanks. P.S., though, the statues were not removed, and now they CAN’T be unless the state gives the ok.

    • P.P.S. I’d be willing to bet that a huge campaign of pressure on the Virginia General Assembly, where the GOP holds the slimmest of slim majorities, is going to follow. However, if it doesn’t move a bill to eliminate these statues, which it may not, it is very likely you are going to see attempts to destroy them privately.

      There is precedent for doing things like that like the destruction of Nelson’s Pillar and William of Orange’s statue in Dublin, which weren’t hurting anyone nor interfering with the political process, but intolerable to certain anti-British folks. The destruction of the Pillar was in 1966, after Ireland had been independent for decades. These statues are intolerable to certain people, just like Columbus Day is intolerable to some people and visible crosses are intolerable to some people.

      These are the kinds of people who can’t walk past the statue, can’t ignore the celebration, and can’t take the turn that doesn’t take them past the cross. These things are reminders to them that wrong-headed people sometimes get their way or got their way before, and that just can’t be allowed. So they put ridiculous amounts of pressure on politicians, or they protest and create chaos, or they bring lawsuits in the hope someone will capitulate. Sometimes, though, the politicians stand firm (Akron’s city council turning back a resolution to eliminate Columbus Day), the police disperse the protests after a while (New York), and they just can’t get the judges to see it their way (the Bladensburg Cross, in all likelihood).

      Most folks would say at that point that was time to give it a rest, or that their request went through all the appropriate channels and it was still denied, so it was time to accept that. However, there are always a few hardcore folks who won’t accept it and won’t give it a rest. If the courts and the politicians won’t do for them, then they’ll just do for themselves. If the state legislature won’t authorize the removal of that statue, they’ll just plant a bomb to take it down. If the city council won’t make the switch from Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, they’ll just show up at the parade or the celebration and start a riot. If the SCOTUS says no, the cross monument stays, then they’ll just plow a truck into it and knock it down. If a few passersby get hit by flying debris when the statue goes boom, too bad, but doing the right thing sometimes results in collateral damage. If a few folks just looking to watch the parade or eat some pizza or zeppole get a brick or a club upside the head during the Columbus Day riot, then they should have known better than to join that celebration when it was the wrong thing to do. If a couple of people in the area get crushed when the cross monument falls, then that’s a shame, but they should have known better than to go near something that people felt strongly about, and that some people felt VERY strongly about.

      Of course the same people who’d do this would be horrified if someone took down a statute of MLK or of Abby Hoffman ranting. That’s white male supremacy at its worst. These people would go crazy if some brawny Proud Boys decided to teach some demonstrating students what was what. That’s just oppression of the peaceful dissenter. And the universe forbid anyone target a mosque for destruction. Crosses suck, cathedrals suck, but black churches and mosques are awesome.

      The left wants a monopoly not only on honor, as I’ve written about, but on the legitimacy of violent action. It’s just that much easier when the guys in the black masks are the only ones allowed to take violent action and no one else is allowed to fight back.

      • The destruction of the Pillar was in 1966, after Ireland had been independent for decades. These statues are intolerable to certain people, just like Columbus Day is intolerable to some people and visible crosses are intolerable to some people.

        De facto independent, yes, but I suspect that complete formal separation might – just – have been more recent than “decades” (the whole Irish Free State thing). I would have to check, to be sure. And I have been told that it was nothing to do with anything being intolerable, but rather that the lads chose it for its symbolic value at a time when things had gone quiet enough that they thought a gesture was needed to keep the flame alive.

        Trivia: that street was known as the Street of the Three Adulterers, after the common feature of the statues there (“But I only see two statues.”, “Ah, Nelson’s Pillar. That’s the one that isn’t there. The lads blew it up in the ’60s.”).

        More trivia: the lads were good enough with explosives that they hardly disturbed surrounding property, but when the disposal experts blew up the remaining stump they took out windows and more far and wide.

        Yet more trivia: the analogous statue of Nelson in New Zealand was obtained as a job lot from an Italian sculptor, who simply modified and sent a statue he had on hand of an Italian naval officer that had been ordered and not paid for, and it was only years later that it was discovered that the uniform was all wrong. (Si no e vero, e ben trovato.)

        • De facto independent since 1922, the Republic of Ireland since 1948. Its presence understandably rankled as Irish nationalist sentiment grew. It did become a target during the Irish War of Independence, but the explosives failed to detonate. After independence, the main obstacle to its removal was legal, since it was owned by a trust that was supposed to maintain it in perpetuity, and the legislature just couldn’t seem to get its act together and deliver legislation terminating the trust, clearing the way for the pillar’s removal.

          Eventually the IRA terrorists/gangsters (hehe, “the lads,” like they were just a bunch of nice young fellows you could have a beer with instead of a bunch of thugs and terrorists who’d make a boy take a message across town while they held his mom at gunpoint) decided to take care of it themselves. Thankfully the area was deserted, but they could quite easily have killed someone or several someones if it had been timed differently. Donal Fallon, who apparently researched the whole incident quite carefully, said the claim the initial explosion did less damage than the army’s controlled explosion to destroy what was left is a myth and that the last explosion did only about 1/4 the damage of the first.

          Well, now they have the Dublin Spire, i.e. the Stiffy by the Liffey or the Erection at the Intersection (those Irish have to give everything a naughty rhyming appellation, such wit), which looks like a giant hypodermic needle. Truth be told I think it’s actually rather jarring amidst the Georgian architecture of the surrounding buildings, but there’s no accounting for taste.

          I guess it’s never too late to right an old wrong, and if someone gets killed, well, that’s just how it goes. I’m half Irish (well, actually Irish, English and Scandinavian) on my mom’s side, but I feel no great love for Ireland or Dublin. I went there once in 2004, and the odds are I probably never will again. It’s just a rainy, foggy, pale imitation of London, and frankly I’d rather have the real thing. I just can’t get over the 800+ year-old bigotry that nobody will let go, despite the five decades that have now passed since independence and the two since the Good Friday Agreement. One expatriate from Belfast belongs to the same gym as I do, and during one conversation he still referenced the “fookin’ Prods.” Unfortunately I had neither my cell phone nor my limitless imagination with me (it was before 6 a.m.) or I would have whipped out a picture of me and a female friend and told him a whole story about how that was my wife, and she was from London (we met when I did a semester there in college). What’s more, she belonged to the Church of England, I attended Episcopal services with her, and we raised our children in the Episcopal church. And it gets better, her brother should have been standing up at our wedding, but he couldn’t because he was killed by an IED in 1988. So just who’s the “fookin’ Prod?”

  4. I still use Lee as an example of class in society. Lee wanted to be an engineer, but until recently, engineering has been considered in-between a white and blue collar profession. It was beneath Lee’s status to become an engineer. The only way he could respectably be an engineer is to be a military officer and work in the engineering corps. You can see the dismissal of engineers as not quite proper people even recently in the dismissal of the engineers’ concerns in the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia incidents. They weren’t taken seriously because they were ‘just engineers’, not proper managers.

    • …and the Manager class can officially ‘Bite Me.’

      I cannot count the times a stuffed shirt, overeducated ‘manager’ who got his position because of who daddy was and whose ass he kissed overruled a recommendation given by highly qualified engineers who were dealing in reality rather than politics and a unethical bubble.

      Bridges and buildings have fallen, rockets exploded, electronics failed, and cars crashed from such instances.

      I was taught (at Texas A&M) that engineering ethics consisted of ‘make sure the bridge doesn’t fail,’ or ‘do the job right, because mother nature does not care about your feelings and will wreck your bad designs every time.’

      • Slick, my admiration for you just went up a notch or two. A&M (The Aggies) have, I’m told, one of the best engineering schools in the nation, possibly the world. Among other things, they teach you to THINK and it is obvious you’ve learned that lesson well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.