The Civil War ended in 1865, but the United States has struggled to cope with its legacy ever since. Who is to be honored, and how should we remember those who fought and led troops on both sides? Recently the conversation over the place of monuments commemorating Confederate generals and soldiers has been prevalent in the news. To truly understand the issue, we must look to the origin of the monuments. Considering the time and place in which they were erected can help determine what to do with them.
While some people argue that all Confederate monuments should be taken down and destroyed, I believe that these monuments have a place in the United States. They shed light on the political and social atmospheres of the times when they were built. As such, they should be placed in a museum as historical artifacts. They should not, however, be in public parks to be viewed honorably.
The monuments raised following the Civil War were built to honor the fallen soldiers of the Confederacy. The monuments honoring leaders of the Confederacy such as Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis were built between 1890 and 1950. These years were the height of segregation and Jim Crow in the United States. These are the monuments that I believe should be viewed as historical artifacts that represent the social atmosphere of the times in which they were built. They honor the ideals of the Confederacy, ideals founded in racism. It is unacceptable to allow these statues and monuments in public environments. The men they depict were traitors to the United States and do not deserve to be honored.
Placing monuments to Confederate leaders in museums allows Americans to reflect on their meaning and how they represent the time in which they were created. But it stops people from publicly honoring Confederate leaders and the ideals of the Confederacy. The Confederacy was a rebellion and those who supported it were traitors, so I find it ridiculous that monuments to these men are allowed. Not only that, but the monuments represent racist ideals. Monuments to Confederate leaders must not be allowed in a public arena.
The monuments that I believe pose a harder question are those that honor the soldiers who died. Yes, these soldiers were rebels and traitors too, but they were also young and sent to fight on behalf of the elites. In deciding what to do with those monuments, we must look at when they were constructed. If they were constructed following the war to remember those who died, I think they possibly have a place in the public arena. If they were constructed during the Jim Crow era, it’s easier to say they should be destroyed (or, in my opinion, moved to museums).
We must remember what happened in our history. But there is a difference between remembering a horrible period and honoring it. Monuments to Confederate leaders are unacceptable in the public arena. They should be placed in a museum or perhaps destroyed. Monuments honoring the soldiers are a more difficult and complex issue that must be debated on a case-by-case basis, but Confederate leaders clearly deserve no honor.