In regard to the recent push to purge the Earth of monuments to the Confederacy, I refused to become just another polarized voice on the subject and, therefore, refrained from expressing my personal opinion. However, when this argument shifted, vilifying Gen. Robert E. Lee, I refused to remain silent. Because I believe wholeheartedly in the U.S. Constitution and the right of all men to a defense, I will make a humble attempt to do just that; and, in doing so, I will employ the use of a few of Lee’s own words:
“So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that Slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interest of the South. So fully am I satisfied of this that I would have cheerfully lost all that I have lost by the war, and have suffered all that I have suffered to have this object attained.
“With all my devotion to the Union and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home. I have therefore resigned my commission in the Army, and save in defense of my native State, with the sincere hope that my poor services may never be needed, I hope I may never be called on to draw my sword.”
In a purely objective way, these are not the words of a man full of hatred. These are very much the words of a man who hated only war more than slavery.
Yes, Lee had many flaws and made any number of mistakes, but are we as a modern society so focused on inclusion and acceptance to damn the man because of his flaws? Are we to ignore his hatred of violence, his devout faith in Christianity and his having dedicated his entire life after the war to educating others at Washington and Lee? And if we have so decided, should we not tear down monuments to Thomas Jefferson, Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King on account of their owning slaves, employing scare tactics and engaging in adultery, respectively? Are we to totally discount the great works accomplished by these men all because they, at some point in their lives, erred morally?
Quoting Mayor Mitch Landrieu, “Symbols should reflect who we are as a people. We have never been a culture that revered war rather than peace.” I fail to see how Lee stands contrary to this belief. Discussion is, as always, a good thing; but dangling an honorable man’s legacy as a political pawn is as unjust and immoral as anything.