The General Lee statue at the heart of the Char­lottesville riots. | Wiki­media Commons

At Hillsdale, the beginning of each semester is typ­i­cally char­ac­terized by cal­cu­lating the minimum amount of sleep required to function, stressing over the looming workload ahead, and raving over the prospect of reading Dante or Virgil with their favorite pro­fessors. But not for stu­dents at the Uni­versity of North Car­olina, who, on Aug. 20, seized their last night of freedom to help topple Silent Sam, a con­fed­erate statue erected on UNC’s Chapel Hill campus.

 The top­pling of Silent Sam is not an iso­lated event — it’s part of a national trend, wherein states and pro­testors alike have dis­mantled Con­fed­erate symbols throughout the U.S. The logic behind this cel­e­brated anni­hi­lation of history is that, by destroying Con­fed­erate mon­u­ments, we can somehow rewrite history, effec­tively “purging” America of the stain of slavery and racism that has darkened the pages of history text­books.

 If only all problems could be solved so easily. Then, perhaps, the West could rec­om­pense for her anti-Islamic sins during the Cru­sades by burning all European Cathe­drals — or America could erase the memory of Japanese Internment Camps by top­pling WWII memo­rials.

The Taliban, in fact, used a similar jus­ti­fi­cation to destroy the tombs of Bib­lical prophets.

 But these solu­tions are clearly absurd because history cannot be re-written. It’s fact. Subject to inter­pre­tation? Cer­tainly. But it’s fact nonetheless. And it is for this reason that destruction of con­fed­erate mon­u­ments are futile. Regardless of our own per­sonal sym­pa­thies, the Con­fed­eracy, the Civil War, and slavery are just as much a part of our cul­tural her­itage as the American Rev­o­lution, the good as well as the bad, and these are facts we must con­front.

 This requires redefining what a mon­ument is. Some argue the only purpose of a mon­ument is to com­mem­orate the dead. But in my view, mon­u­ments have man­ifold pur­poses, from high­lighting the nau­se­ating evils humans are capable of, to sparking a con­ver­sation about important political events. Nazi con­cen­tration camps do not still stand in Germany because Germans want to promote Nazi virtues. They stand as reminders of the evils that occured because of Nazi ideas.

 The most common objec­tions to the preser­vation of Con­fed­erate mon­u­ments is that the alleged “purpose” of many of these mon­u­ments was to promote white supremacy. But by that logic, perhaps we should seri­ously recon­sider the Lincoln Memorial, since it was erected, not to cel­e­brate the erad­i­cation of slavery (some­thing Lincoln himself never fully achieved), but to promote nation­alism.

 And the notion that Con­fed­erate Mon­u­ments cel­e­brate white supremacy hardly aligns with modern day sen­ti­ments. Having lived in Georgia for 18 years, neither I nor anyone I know — whether they be black or white — has ever con­sidered con­fed­erate mon­u­ments to promote white supremacy. Rather, these mon­u­ments are part of a cul­tural her­itage hon­oring ancestors who died for a cause they believed was right. And while we may not agree with their decision — I readily admit that southern states were wrong to secede — this only adds to the gravity and impor­tance of pre­serving these mon­u­ments: so that we do not make a similar mistake.

 Perhaps the best place for Con­fed­erate mon­u­ments is not in the middle of the public square; perhaps they ought to be placed inside the Met or a newly-con­structed American equiv­alent to Momento Park (a Hun­garian park con­taining statues of Com­munist leaders). But in any case, Con­fed­erate statues cer­tainly do not belong inside a dumpster outside the UNC campus while Amer­icans applaud them­selves for somehow “paying the debt” for their ancestral sins.

 Yes, America — and par­tic­u­larly the South — has had dark moments in its past, but to destroy the very icons of that history is non­sen­sical; it is as if you decided that your house was so messy that the only way in which to clean it was by burning it. You don’t clean your house by burning it down — you get on your knees and start scrubbing. Likewise, America cannot remedy the evils of the past by attempt to destroy the history it doesn’t like; we can only work through issues of slavery and racism by con­fronting them and asking those hard, uncom­fortable con­ver­sa­tions that Hillsdale lauds. In this way, Con­fed­erate mon­u­ments are doing exactly what they ought.

Julia Powell is a sophomore studying the liberal arts.

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    I read the history of this par­ticular statue. It wasn’t built imme­di­ately after the war, but decades after in the Jim crow era… let’s think more on what side of this subject will make the most sense 20 – 40 yes from now. Not all statues deserve to stand, only the good,true, and beau­tiful.… or so everyone at hillsdale says

    • Daisiemae

      Of course, the mon­ument was not built imme­di­ately after the war. How could it be? The entire South was dev­as­tated eco­nom­i­cally. Every penny had to go towards sur­vival.

      It took decades for impov­er­ished women and children to raise enough money holding bake sales and bazaars. The fact that they finally managed to raise enough money to erect their mon­u­ments at the same time as the Jim Crow era are two unre­lated events.

      All art should be allowed to stand…the good, the bad, and the ugly. Who gets to decide which artwork is “good, true, and beau­tiful?” Auguste Rodin was per­se­cuted and cen­sored by the author­ities of his day. If the author­ities of his day had had their way, we would have been deprived of some of the most beau­tiful sculpture ever created.

      Cen­sorship of artwork is the beginning of a slide into tyranny and despotism. Artists should be free to create, and cit­izens should be free to see whatever art work they wish to see. God forbid the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave should ever be taken over by Thought Police who decide what art work we are allowed to create, and what art work we are allowed to see.

      • Jen­nifer Melfi

        “who gets to decide which artwork is “good, true, and beau­tiful””?

        This is about as un-Hillsdale as it gets. There are very clear def­i­n­i­tions of these things that can be applied to the art. In this case, this isn’t cen­sorship of art. No one said you can’t make art about this subject, it’s just that it has passed it’s due date in this position of promi­nence.

        See above about the why this statue actually stands.

  • DeoPatria

    The fact that statues were erected at a time of Jim Crow does not mean they had any­thing to do with white supremacy or seg­re­gation. Con­tem­po­ra­neous events do not always signify cau­sation. You might just as well attribute the civil rights acts to the Tonkin Gulf incident. Only people who are ide­o­log­i­cally obsessed by today’s talking points see through a lens all tinted with slavery and racism. Most who feel this way do not know (and if they did, probably would not care) about two decades of com­munity meetings over Southern Rights (no, that’s not syn­onymous with “slavery”). That “Jim Crow era” hap­pened to be approx­i­mately 50 years after Appo­mattox and Get­tysburg, when vet­erans of both sides (and of all skin colors) were meeting and shaking hands, and dying off. They are war memo­rials to the courage and mil­itary valor of the generic soldier or admired heroes, and nothing more. It is dis­hon­orable to say oth­erwise — and haters and the ignorant do not determine my attitude nor that of any Con­fed­erate descendant I know.

    • Jen­nifer Melfi

      I think you and @Daisiemae:disqus are wrong.

      - take a look at the words of memorial for this statue and ask yourself if this is the kind of thing that deserves a prominent position on anyone’s campus:

      “The present gen­er­ation, I am per­suaded, scarcely takes note of what the Con­fed­erate soldier meant to the welfare of the Anglo-Saxon race during the four years imme­di­ately suc­ceeding the war, when the facts are that their courage and stead­fastness saved the very life of the Anglo-Saxon race in the South. When ‘the bottom rail was on top’ all over the Southern states, and today, as a con­se­quence, the purest strain of the Angl0-Saxon is to be found in the 13 Southern States — Praise God.

      I trust I may be par­doned for one allusion, howbeit it is rather per­sonal. One hundred yards from where we stand [on Franklin Street], less than ninety days perhaps after my return from Appo­mattox, I horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds, because upon the streets of this quiet village she had pub­licly insulted an maligned a Southern lady, and then rushed for pro­tection to these Uni­versity buildings where was sta­tioned a gar­rison of 100 Federal sol­diers. I per­formed the pleasing duty in the imme­diate presence of the entire gar­rison, and for thirty nights afterward slept with a double-barrel shotgun under my head.”

      I am glad the statue came down, and I think that anyone who believes in the promise of the dec­la­ration of inde­pen­dence (still revered at Hillsdale I hope) and the truth of the Eman­ci­pation Procla­mation would feel the same way.

      • DeoPatria

        You are wrong, young one. I am 61 years old, born and raised in Cal­i­fornia. When the civil rights protests in the South were being tele­vised — live — as a small child, somehow, I knew that the South had no corner on racism and prej­udice. My friends who lived in the Watts projects shared many things with me about de facto seg­re­gation. I even admired the South for putting things openly in the laws rather than the snake-like and vicious prej­udice that I observed from many around me, and how neigh­bor­hoods in Los Angeles had been seg­re­gated thereby.

        I’ve actually studied Julian Shake­speare Carr. I also live deeply in original sources, when people men­tioned race as a descriptive fact of a par­ticular indi­vidual, and not as a trigger word invoking social justice pre­sentism, their minds poi­soned and pol­luted by “sci­en­tific” and godless eugenics. Civil rights was sup­posed to be about freeing people as whole human beings without their skin color chaining them to think certain ways. That one descriptive statement of that indi­vidual by Carr, reflecting the issues of Recon­struction and the decades that fol­lowed (and not nec­es­sarily racism against all skin color owners) has been exploited to counter ALL that was stated that day. Do you know there were persons of color in atten­dance at his speech, and the speeches of others? Why isn’t their interest and presence as important as Carr’s statement? We know why; it’s obvious — at least to anyone polit­i­cally aware of propaganda’s influence.

        The fact that today’s mis­in­ter­pre­tation — the ‘nar­rative’ — of what Carr was saying — as under­stood by that audience as opposed to today’s SJWs — and the issues of the time is being uti­lized to negate the courage and valor of 100s of boys who died in defense of their country is blas­phemous. Even more, the ACTUAL his­torical record of Carr’s work in employing persons of color, spon­soring promising young men of color and their projects (like W. G. Pearson and James E. Shepard — Google them) is a travesty of us sub­sti­tuting our igno­rance and negating a century of truth. To do so for pol­itics which serve nothing but hatred and dead ends and having NOTHING to do with “racial rec­on­cil­i­ation” is a farce. Indeed, today’s pol­itics has destroyed history for many people — par­tic­u­larly if political use is made of certain issues (whilst far more recent history of Marxist agi­tation, for one issue, is neglected).

        Booker T. Wash­ington once wrote that the races would never set against each other again, because no one would be so foolish as to forget that the best interests of each race are the best interests of the other. But Wash­ington had made a certain assumption, of dealing with sub­stantive people of goodwill — and not those who depend upon the pol­itics of destruction.

        To dis­honor the Kenan family (and others who founded and built and pre­served UNC), all the young men sym­bolized by that statue, all those who donated to it, and a century of this country knitting itself together, all to kneel to the SJW Utopian vision that covers the Marxist GUTTING of pride in American valor, Con­fed­erate achieve­ments and the race-baiting spon­sored in America for the past century is to help ensure that we all perish together alike as fools. And I am sorry you haven’t lived long enough or know enough history or human nature to see this is so.

  • Daisiemae

    Mon­u­ments are rarely erected imme­di­ately after a war. They are always erected roughly 50 years later as vet­erans begin to die off. It is a way of remem­bering those who died and is always meant as a means of healing.

    For example, we now have a rash of movies, TV shows, doc­u­men­taries, and books on WWII – just as nearly all the vet­erans have died off. The USS Arizona Memorial did not open until 1980 and was not declared a National His­toric Landmark until 1989. My own father recently received a posthumous medal for his service in WWII.

    The erection of Civil War era mon­u­ments on both sides got into full swing near the time of the 50th anniversary. Vet­erans were dying off, and there was a strong movement toward rec­on­cil­i­ation of the sec­tions. The mon­u­ments were seen as a means of healing.

    For the South in par­ticular, it took this long to erect mon­u­ments because the entire South had been dev­as­tated eco­nom­i­cally. People were strug­gling for sur­vival and there was no money what­soever for mon­u­ments. It took decades to raise money with dona­tions of nickels and dimes from impov­er­ished women holding bake sales and bazaars. They simply couldn’t raise the money any faster.

    Most mon­u­ments served as a cenotaph: “a tomblike mon­ument to someone buried else­where, espe­cially one com­mem­o­rating people who died in a war.” The bodies of thou­sands and thou­sands of Southern sol­diers were aban­doned in fields and woods far from home. Thou­sands of Southern fam­ilies were dev­as­tated when they could not bury their loved ones with a proper burial. Mon­u­ments pro­vided a place where grieving fam­ilies could honor their lost loved ones…a place where they could focus their grief…a place where they could heal.

    After the war, the federal gov­ernment spent over $4 million ($75 million in today’s money) recov­ering Union dead and estab­lishing national ceme­teries. South­erners con­tributed a sig­nif­icant part of the tax money used for that purpose.

    However, not one cent of tax money was spent recov­ering Con­fed­erate dead. It was up to impov­er­ished tax­paying South­erners to recover their dead, honor them, and grieve them as best they could. The fact that it took them decades to accom­plish this in the face of utter destruction and des­o­lation should not be used by hys­terical mobs con­ducting witch-hunts and looking for vul­nerable victims to destroy. The doggedly deter­mined efforts of South­erners in the face of over­whelming poverty to honor their lost loved ones and heal their national souls should be applauded.

    The popular mantra that Con­fed­erate mon­u­ments were erected during Jim Crow to ter­rorize black people is utterly mis­placed. It is as foolish as it is dan­gerous. Con­fed­erate mon­u­ments (or any other mon­u­ments in our country) were not erected to ter­rorize anybody. But the current actions of tearing down mon­u­ments are being used to ter­rorize and browbeat plenty of people. The current coalition of gov­ernment, uni­ver­sities, media, the enter­tainment industry, and cor­po­ra­tions to accom­plish this destruction is far more ter­ri­fying than any mon­ument could ever be.

  • Rogue A.I.

    The Con­fed­erates were traitors. As such they should not be cel­e­brated. These statues were most def­i­nitely put up as a sign of white supremacy at the time. Just look at the state­ments of the people who erected the statues.

    • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

      The Civil War was fought pri­marily due to Tariffs on imported goods, imposed by the northern man­u­fac­turing states. Since the agrarian South imported nearly every­thing, they got ham­mered with higher prices-there was a net cash flow from the South to the North.

      From the South’s per­spective they were fighting to defend their right to import goods without costly tariffs. They felt they were being bullied by the north because there were far more northern state Sen­ators and Rep­re­sen­ta­tives than from the South. In essence, they were fighting for ‘No Tax­ation without Representation!’…does that ring any bells?

      Many in the South did not believe they were fighting for slavery, they were not even fighting so they could secede. They were fighting to they could export and import goods without pro­hib­i­tively costly tariffs. Fort Sumter not only had US troops manning it, it has Customs Offi­cials. Now do you under­stand?

      • Rogue A.I.

        I under­stand per­fectly. I’ve read dozens of primary sources from prominent South­erners at the time and their main message was always “the North wants to take away our slaves.” Pastors, politi­cians were all uni­formly the same. Do some basic research please.

        • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

          The slavery issue was not even sec­ondary to jus­ti­fi­cation for the war. Lincoln noted more than once that he would take the South back ‘with their slaves’ if it reformed the Union. Slavery only became a topic in 1863 when the Union needed black sol­diers because whites were tiring of the con­flict and the casu­alties. You really need to study the topic in greater detail, most HS kids know that much.

          • Rogue A.I.

            I studied the topic in detail while I was a student at Hillsdale, thank you. The history department was very thorough in pre­senting us mul­tiple primary sources that included speeches and essays written by prominent Southern politi­cians and clergy of that time. Espe­cially before and during the Civil War. If you do some basic research it’s unde­niable.

            Unfor­tu­nately the far right wants to re-write history and claim the Con­fed­eracy as their own in some mis-guided attempt at bringing back white supremacism. They, and you, are dead wrong on the facts.

          • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

            I note you haven’t addressed my point that the Civil War was largely over Northern pro­moted Tariffs against imported goods. It was THE major issue, that you don’t know that calls into question how seri­ously you studied the matter.

          • Rogue A.I.

            You’re des­per­ately trying to deny the main issue. I’m aware of tariffs and the issues it caused, but the way the war was sold to the people of the South was all about slavery. I don’t under­stand how you can’t see that.

          • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

            It was never sold that way. 99% of the folks who fought for the Con­fed­eracy didn’t have slaves, they were poor farmers. They had no skin in the game regarding slavery, they fought because the northern states forced tariffs on imported goods which caused a net wealth transfer from the south to the north.

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    I want to state for anyone passing by not familiar with hillsdale college that there are some very ignorant and mis­placed views found in the com­ments below. Those com­menters have nothing to do with hillsdale college and do not rep­resent views of anyone but pos­sibly the smallest minority of students/faculty

    • Camus53

      Thank you!

      The Collegian’s comment section has attracted a small cadre of posers using the site to post their general narrow minded non­sense. One in par­ticular who fre­quently posts and obvi­ously wishes he had the intel­lectual abil­ities to be con­sidered worthy of atten­dance at Hillsdale College, left to bleat here in the paper’s com­ments.

      While I have been and am critical of Hillsdale’s turn towards the extreme right and reli­gious pros­e­ly­tizing, it is still my college. Some­thing, as we both note, other com­menters here can not claim and who might be encouraged to go find other sites on which to blather.

      • Jen­nifer Melfi

        no problem bro. happy to help out… whoever you are. Keep fighting the good fight.

        • Camus53

          I believe I predate you by a number of years at Hap­pydale. So for you, con­tinue to live long and prosper…for me…just trying to stay alive a bit longer to keep things real around the Dale.