I have been thinking about the latest national fury, the removal of Confederate monuments and flags from public places. These actions have been labeled as “revisionist history” and worse by some who wish them to remain as part of our national public landscape. To me, this is nonsense.
In the first place, erasing the memory of the Civil War is not a good idea. If anything, we need to revisit those times in our hearts and minds and be sure that we truly understand why 650,000 Americans had to violently die in that conflict. We need to publicly admit what that war was about. It was not the War of Northern Aggression as some would have you believe. We need to be clear that those men and women who fought on the side of the Confederate States of America were trying to destroy this country. They were violently trying to keep slavery as a legal institution. In the case of any former U.S. Military officers who joined the Confederate military, they were committing treason. We need to learn from that but not honor it.
Second, I would recommend that we follow the model I understand is being practiced in Germany where the terrible national scar of the Holocaust is not memorialized, not commemorated with statues of Hitler, Goering, Eichmann, and the rest of that bunch. Rather it is taught in the schools as having been racist, wrongheaded, mean spirited, cruel, and absolutely nothing to be proud of. That is not changing history, that is using the past to make a better present and future.
Every graduating high school senior in the United States should be required to submit an essay on the reasons for and the lessons learned from the Civil War. And if they are graduating from a high school named after Robert E. Lee, that should be an interesting essay.
Hitler is not a German national hero. Robert E. Lee should not be an American national hero. This should be easy.
Ellison Bay, Wis.