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While many defend Con­fed­erate statues as part of our history, mon­u­ments are fun­da­men­tally a matter of both a community’s history and identity. We as Amer­icans must determine what parts of our history we claim, identify with, and ide­alize. A mon­ument is a symbol of our aspi­ra­tions as a society.

The Con­fed­eracy is undoubtably a part of American history. When given a char­i­table inter­pre­tation by its defenders, the Con­fed­eracy is viewed as a symbol of the states’ rights movement. Yet the Con­fed­eracy fought for the states’ right to destroy the foun­dation of the United States through rebellion and the right to own other human beings as property.

American char­acter and Southern pride should not be rep­re­sented in the public square by the male­factors of its foulest chapter. Except on bat­tle­fields and in museums, where mon­u­ments com­mem­orate the dead and ought to be honored, com­mu­nities must take up the debate regarding their identity and must vote to remove or relocate Con­fed­erate statues.

Excepting mon­u­ments erected imme­di­ately fol­lowing the Civil War and during its cen­tennial, the vast majority of Con­fed­erate statues were Jim Crow-era arti­facts, erected in oppo­sition to racial equality. Regardless of per­sonal meaning, the her­itage and message of these mon­u­ments ought to earn them few defenders, even among con­ser­v­a­tives.

Despite what the “Unite The Right” rally members would claim, con­ser­v­a­tives stand for the fun­da­mental equality of all mankind on both legal and moral grounds. Defenders of states’ rights need not can­onize the Con­fed­eracy. Support for con­sti­tu­tional fed­er­alism can be attained without the baggage of racial bigotry.
The removal of Con­fed­erate statues is fun­da­men­tally a local decision. So stand, voice your opinion, and make a choice for you and your house. With what part of your history does your com­munity identify and ven­erate for all to see? The heroes of an ill-founded “lost cause” or legit­imate exem­plars of our American exper­iment?

Less a question of public sculpture, the mon­ument debate points to the fight against racial hatred in the United States. For those who do not live in com­mu­nities with Con­fed­erate mon­u­ments, your voice matters — this is a battle for national identity regardless of where you live. Join the debate, and advocate for an American identity of liberty, unity, and equality. The best way to promote these values and combat racial hatred is open debate and civil goodwill.

The United States does not consist of half “White-Supremacist-Nazi-bigots” and half “Antifa-Com­munist-total­i­tarians.” Talk of civil war is only the latest iter­ation of the nar­rative that has mag­nified and legit­imized political vio­lence. Just beyond the blood-stained head­lines, the belief in free speech, peaceful protest, and the rule of law remain cher­ished in America.

To heal and rec­oncile neighbor with neighbor and citizen with country, Amer­icans must have the moral clarity to stand up in unity and decry hatred. “With firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right,” Abraham Lincoln said, “let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nations wounds.” Con­sid­ering the damage done to the civil fabric of America fol­lowing Char­lottesville, it’s time to revisit his advice.

Ross Hatley is a senior studying pol­itics. He is the pres­ident of College Repub­licans.