a variety of powerful forces are coalescing now to raise and to concentrate white racial consciousness. Among them is a sense among a certain class of whites that they have no roots — a conviction that leads them to find identity in victimization.
.. The problem is not the persistence of the graven image of Robert E. Lee in American life. The problem is the profound lack of Lee’s character traits in American life.
After President Trump’s foul, self-aggrandizing tirade the other night in Phoenix, I thought about how in the hell it was that a culture — Southern culture — that professes to honor the character traits embodied in Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and the rest, can embrace as its champion a vain, fat-mouthing Yankee con man who is a respecter of nothing. Trump has exactly one classic Southern character trait: a willingness to fight. But then, absent the rest of them, that makes him no different than a trashy barroom brawler.
.. But the escapism that permeates country’s recent hit-making formula reveals the depth of the problems that plague the regions traditionally composing country music’s fanbase, and offers a unique glimpse into the motivations behind the Trump phenomenon. After all, vague rallying cries like “Make America Great Again” speak to a sense of loss, without actually requiring the painful introspection necessary to identify that which has been lost.
.. they can’t steal from you what you already threw away. That’s something none of us in this country — white or black, rich or poor, North or South or East or West — want to talk about. It’s so much easier, and so much more politically useful, to complain about what They are doing to us.
.. And you monument iconoclasts, you think to about what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it. Yes, it’s so much easier to tell yourself that as soon as a statue comes down, your life will improve, and America will be greater for it. Your life won’t improve one bit, and because you will have made some of the most hard-up-against-it people in the country hate you, and our common problems that much more difficult to solve, you will have made America worse.
.. Civil Rights leader Andrew Young understands this, telling NPR the other day:
I’m saying these [Black Lives Matter activists] are kids who grew up free, and they don’t realize what still enslaves them — and it’s not those monuments.
.. And I’m saying that a minority can’t be provoking a racist majority that is still underemployed, undereducated and dying faster than we are — that the issue is life and death – not some stupid monument.
.. I had always assumed that the French revolutionaries were basically decent, though they went too far in some cases. And then I went to France and studied the Revolution, which disabused me of that naive thought. But I could not with an easy conscience sympathize with the ancien regime, whose cruelties and injustices were impossible to deny. It seems to me that to enter history with open eyes is to cease to be a fundamentalist about such things.
“Whatever personal qualities they might have had, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee are known to history for one reason: and that is they lead the armies of the Confederate States of America,” said Melvin Ely, a history professor at William & Mary, in Williamsburg, Va.
“Washington and Jefferson, for all their flaws, achieved many things in their careers which have proved crucial to the development of the United States as a democratic republic,” he said.
.. While defenders laud the statues as testaments to Southern bravery and memorials to lost lives, detractors consider them inseparable from the violent movement to fracture the U.S. and keep African-Americans in bondage... Many of these local decisions have followed acts of violence. In the aftermath of the Charleston, S.C., mass shooting in 2015, for example, Nikki Haley, the state’s governor at the time, helped lead a move to remove a Confederate flag from the state Capitol grounds... Each state gets to display two statues to commemorate notable people. There are about 10 Confederate soldiers and politicians in the Capitol, including a statue of Lee, placed in the Statuary Hall collection by Virginia...Two great-great grandsons of Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson urged the mayor and monument commission to remove the statues in a letter Wednesday.
“Last weekend, Charlottesville showed us unequivocally that Confederate statues offer pre-existing iconography for racists,” wrote William Jackson Christian and Warren Edmund Christian.
“Confederate monuments like the Jackson statue were never intended as benign symbols,” they wrote. “Rather, they were the clearly articulated artwork of white supremacy.”