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.”