A Predator of Information

Our songs will all be silenced, but what of it? Go on singing.

Confederate Statues

3 September 2017 7:46 PM (society | politics)

Every now and then, someone will get all upset that I spend my time defending the speech of this or that group they don't like and challenge me, wanting to know why I don't advocate for an end to police violence against black people. The answer is fairly simple: I don't actually spend all that much time hanging around particularly racist people, so I don't get into conversations where people make excuses for police violence. Almost everyone I know is democratic socialist or further left, with the odd radical capitalist (No, you're not anarchists. I'm not interested in your silly fetishization of the state.) or Georgist libertarian thrown in for flavor. The social milieu in which I find myself is made up of arguments about what kind of socialism we should have and how to bring it about and what the place of children in a good society would be. Well, it was. Ever since the US election a good portion of the left has been engaged in a collective freak-out that, as far as I'm concerned, is outright culpable. So now we have ‘no platform’ and similar nonsense go from a marginal position to received wisdom in some quarters. Since the result of the left-wing freak-out in general and the desire to put more restrictions on free expression in particular will prove harmful, I argue against them.

However, I have been hanging around my family. My family tends to the far right, driven by religious conservatism. So I've actually had a chance to hang around people expressing right-wing views and be very annoyed by them. Therefore, I will explain why I am completely in favor of removing confederate statues from places of honor.

So, first off, these are places of honor. We adorn our capitols and parks with things that represent us, that we're proud of, and that we aspire to. The Confederacy is nothing to honor and nothing to be proud of. It was founded to preserve the institution of slavery, one of the greatest evils of the modern era, and pretty much nothing else. I'm aware they had their reasons, that almost nobody is a cackling villain rubbing their hands together. I'm aware many people in the confederacy held the ‘wolf by the ears’ view of participating in an evil institution that they had no way to get out of without catastrophe. I have better things to do with my time than go around calling individuals out as eeeeeeeeeeeevil. My point is that whatever they may have been as individuals, the officers and governing authorities in the confederacy were doing nothing deserving of honor. If we ever built a national monument to upstanding, decent people who shamed and disgraced themselves by pursuing some unworthy cause, I would say that Robert E. Lee belongs there…except by all accounts his views on race and slavery were pretty awful, so I don't know if he actually qualifies.

To those who argue that the civil war was about the principle of states' rights, it is merely required to point out that the only right in question was whether the state can legalize the enslavement of one person by another. This is a right as worthy of defense as a state's right to round people up on the street and torture them to death on television. The constitution was rightly called a covenant with death and an agreement with Hell for allowing it. I have also noticed that the same people who offer this excuse somehow can't see their way to the states having the right to legalize marijuana.

You might argue that there should be some recognition given to the tragic situation of soldiers fighting and dying in a stupid war defending a shameful cause. I couldn't really object to someone wanting to put a wall up with the name of every soldier who died on the confederate side. The closest parallel I can think of is the Vietnam war, which the US had no business fighting in and in which every soldier's death was a pointless waste. Even then, the Vietnam War did not have a clearly right side. Sure, the Union army sometimes did terrible things, and the Allied army also did terrible, disgraceful things. However, the Confederacy is closer to Nazi Germany than to any other opponent that the United states has fought.

So, now we get to the claim that removing these monuments is destroying or rewriting history. It has been likened to removing all the statues of Roman emperors because Rome kept slaves, too. First, since when is Rome your model of virtue? Second, we can remember history without honoring it. We don't have to keep monuments in our capitols; we, as a culture, have invented these things called History Museums. Third, they're not actually history. Sticking to the Rome example, the analog would be if Julian the Apostate was angry at Christianity being the State Religion and so built a whole bunch of statues of Nero all over the place to remind Christians who's in charge here and what he thought of them. Most of these monuments were built between the 1890s and the 1950s when the Ku Klux Klan was gaining strength as an attempt to defend segregation and make a show of what they and other racist groups represented. That on its own is enough reason to smash these monuments up and sweep them into the dustbin of history.

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