I recently visited New Orleans for the first time and have to say I loved the city. My wife and I crammed as much as we could into a four-day visit. It’s a beautiful place constantly alive with tourists, performers, artists, beautiful parks and history.
Having a Southern heritage, one of the things I most enjoyed were the monuments to Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard. I was very distressed when I read about plans to remove these pieces of history. I believe a letter written by Gary D. Gardner that was published in the Courier-Journal pertaining to attempts to remove a statue of Jefferson Davis from the Kentucky Capitol echoes my thoughts and that of thousands of others.
I quote from the highlights: Frankly it’s time we stopped damning the morals and character of individuals from 150 years ago. Every attack such as this is an attack upon my own heritage and every Kentuckian, regardless of race. I embrace my past, and in doing so neither uphold the horrible institution of slavery nor vilify it. I accept it as what shaped my life and in some form directs my future, and in doing so I give credit and thanks to the now-forgotten black men and women who had as much impact upon my family as my blood relations of the centuries past.
I don’t have to glorify Jefferson Davis’ politics or make ludicrous claims on his morality to acknowledge him as a great Kentuckian and a great American. The social orders of 1850 cannot be used to judge a man of his caliber by the standards of America in the 21st century.
The very idea of removing Davis’ statue or any other requires us to also obliterate the memorials of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor and other slave-holding presidents.
I fear the desperate zealots of this cause may even decide some day that our churches and graveyards, historically linked to slavery and slave ownership, stand in defiance to their intentions.
Our ancestors forged for us through blood, sweat, tears and despair a legacy that should now unite us in a shared past. That is the luxury of history. We don’t have to change it, nor do we need to hide any part of it, but rather we must jointly preserve and understand it.