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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.