Civil War Fighters
© Unknown
I am not come to argue with facility the nuances of states' rights, or the socio-economic causation of the American Civil War. I am not come to censure nor to support nor to give up an apologetic for either side. I am come to discuss the meaning of a monument, that strange word which enters our language from Latin - monere - to remind, through Middle English, in the form of monumentum denoting a burial place.

Whatever you believe the causes of that civil war to be, I will concede your points in earnest, and now being in complete agreement with each other, we can discuss the end of that bloody conflagration. Who can deny it tore apart the Union of States, the peace and tranquility of civil life and set brother against brother and neighbor against neighbor? When it was over, the Confederacy surrendered, and those states who had rebelled were reabsorbed. Their peculiar tradition was justly outlawed, but they were not, and our illustrious ancestor Abraham Lincoln made plain in his final address that those states who had been sometime away from the Union were to be welcomed back as if they had but stepped out momentarily. In Lincoln's mind, whatever vengeance was God's to deliver was so delivered.

Within 40 years of the Civil War, and in memoriam of their fathers, there was a movement by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and various other Ladies' Memorial Societies, to re-inter their fathers, brothers, uncles or great grandfathers, and great uncles, and to put up monuments to them. What they started is sometimes termed the "Lost Cause." A mainly therapeutic oral and literary history of the Civil War that expressed their bitterness and despair, not simply in losing the war, but in the economic and social havoc that ensued. A poverty gripped the south which it has in fact, never truly recovered from.

A monument does not have to mean anything in particular, other than being a memory of what has passed. It neither blames nor supports, but gives testimony that something has ended. The war ended. Slavery ended. And so these monuments, and these stories are the bittersweet and tragic mementos of loss.

When we tear down these statues, or have them moved, we are disturbing the graves of vanquished ghosts. Can we not be satisfied in our victory over the living that we even pursue them into the earth? What right is claimed to violate the past I cannot fathom, what aim is sought I cannot imagine, but I know what gain is to be found there can only be diabolical.

Such a bold claim is made by the youth of today who have known no slavery, who lash out at the dead as if they are still alive. Tell me, shall we be here again in another 150 years? When will they have paid enough? Perhaps God knows, because I get the feeling these youth don't. So if it is a debt that can never be repaid, then who should acquiesce to even its interest? And if we are like Ahab to chase them round Perdition's flame, we should have a care, as all who seek vengeance should set aside some coin for our own grave digger as well.

These statues we deface are the headstones of a racist past, one defeated and entombed for posterity. If we dig them up we chance releasing what they restrain.