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What do the statue
destroyers really want?

All across the nation, statues of historical Confederate figures are being removed, warehoused, and sometimes defaced or destroyed. This is happening under the false assumption that they are "symbols" of racism. That assumption is based on a grossly simplified understanding of Southern history.

In a letter to his wife before the Civil War, Robert E. Lee once called slavery a "moral and political evil." In his lifetime he emancipated slaves, built schools for them, and aided in their passage to Liberia. In terms of his antebellum South culture, Lee was enlightened. His statues should be protected to celebrate his humane views.

It's true that, despite that, Lee was effectively defending slavery by leading the Southern armies. That wasn't his motivation though, nor was it that of Stonewall Jackson, another moderate Southerner. Forced to choose between commanding the armies of the North and those of the South (both of which offered him command), Lee chose the South out of loyalty to his home state of Virginia. He was a professional military officer who made a principled decision. His choice was seen that way by many in the North, including Ulysses S. Grant, to whom Lee surrendered at Appomattox.

In 1860, only 20 percent of Southerners owned slaves.

It's also worth noting that in 1860, only twenty percent of Southerners owned slaves, and only a few thousand large slave-holding plantations existed. The upland South didn't fight for slavery, since slavery played only a small role in states like North Carolina and Tennessee. Large-scale plantations did exist in the Deep South. Many of them were places of great cruelty, but these were the exception. Even in the Deep South, most whites owned no slaves.

The current frenzy to remove Confederate monuments isn't rooted in historical reality. Instead, it's a political gambit meant to divide Americans and build support for progressive candidates in advance of the 2018 and 2020 elections. The statue destroyers want to bait Southern conservatives by attacking Southern pride.

No nation's people can live without a history and their own distinctive identity. The idea that everything about the South, and by implication about Americans who supported Donald Trump, is "evil" and must be pushed out of the public sphere is nothing less than a kind of political violence. It's meant to spur an overreaction by Southerners and a violent pushback from Northern liberals.

This campaign to remove all traces of white Southern history is also selective and racially motivated. "Racism" is the belief that racial traits are determinative and that one race is superior to another. But what is "race"? According to Webster's it's "a group of individuals who share physical traits" or "a common culture or history." Clearly, heartland Americans, and especially Southerners, are "racial groups" against whom progressives, and Obama in particular, have repeatedly shown bias. How many of those "counter-protesters" supporting removal of Confederate statues are motivated by hatred for a people whom they despise because of their conservative culture?

It won't stop with Confederate monuments. Washington and Jefferson were also slaveholders.

It won't stop with Confederate monuments. Washington and Jefferson were slaveholders. If you take progressive thinking seriously, they must also be removed from history. So were Presidents Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Tyler, Polk, William Henry Harrison, Benjamin Harrison, Taylor, Johnson, and Grant.

Indeed, most influential persons in the South owned slaves, as did most Northern leaders up until slavery was abolished in the North in the mid-1820s. Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Chief Justice John Marshall, Patrick Henry, and Sen. Steven A. Douglas were all slaveholders, as was General William Tecumseh Sherman. Slavery was also widely practiced by Native American tribes.

According to the logic of the left, America's entire history before 1830, and in the South before 1860, must be wiped clean. And even that won't be enough. Those complicit in the suppression of blacks during Jim Crow and beyond must also be erased from our history.

That would include Woodrow Wilson, who supported segregation and refused to suppress the KKK in the South, and FDR, who ordered segregation in the military throughout his presidency. And don't forget LBJ, whose congressional record was consistently anti-Civil Rights when it served his political interests.

Theodore Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton were all descendants of slaveholding families, as was Obama, whose white ancestors also owned slaves.

The attempt to remove all vestiges of Southern history from the public space is the work of left-wing extremists intent on destroying Donald Trump. Their targets are selective and politically chosen. It's not Robert E. Lee who offends the left, but Donald J. Trump and the ordinary Americans who voted for him.

As always, the left seeks power.

As always, the left seeks power, and the strategy of going after Civil War monuments is just another means to an end. If the issue were slavery, then the record of slaveholders in the North would also have to be erased from the history books. But the issue is not slavery; it's politics in the here and now. The synchronized movement to remove Confederate monuments has been led by Democratic mayors loyal to the Democrat party. Their effort has a target: the sensibilities of those who voted for Trump in overwhelming numbers. The intent is to divide the electorate and rouse antipathy toward Trump among liberals.

Southerners have a right to preserve their history. It is the basis of their common identity. White Southerners are and always have been decent, hardworking, and well intentioned people, and it is crucial that they continue to have pride in their past.

Once again, the left has resorted to the politics of divisiveness based on the demonizing of a particular class of persons, just as it has done with "the rich" in previous campaigns, only now the "demons" are white Southerners. This is pure political hatred, and it's time to fight it, just as we have fought all forms of racism in the past.