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Walter

Most of us slept through at least a few high school history classes. If you had a teacher who could make history more interesting than a shopping list or the back of a cereal box, then you were one of the lucky ones. While the study of history may have a bad reputation among high schoolers, the lessons it affords cannot be ignored or forgotten by society.

We’ve all heard George Santayana’s famous quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Sometimes it seems like, even when we do remember the past, we repeat it. If not, then mankind’s first war would have been its last, and we would have found a way to overcome hatred, repression and subjugation as soon as we saw how they poison a society and tear at its seams. But after many thousands of years, some of us still hate, and some of us are still repressed and subjugated.

That’s why it is so important to understand our history, our real history, warts and all, and resist the temptation to ignore the unpleasant or unflattering facts that make our society what it is. Mankind is terribly imperfect. To pretend otherwise one must revise history, re-writing it in favorable but untrue terms. And that, unfortunately, is what we often do. To find a perfect example of such historical revisionism, we need travel no further than our own McDonough Square.

In the square, in front of the courthouse, stands a Confederate memorial statue. It has been there, commissioned and paid for by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, since 1910. Lately, like many other such memorials, it has become a matter of controversy. Some want it removed. Some say it should be allowed to stand right where it has been for the last 110 years because it is “history” or “heritage,” and that its removal would amount to “destroying history.” If we are really interested in preserving, not destroying, history, we should take a good look at the inscription on the McDonough Square Confederate monument:

“To our Confederate soldiers, those who fell in fiercest fighting and sleeping beneath the sod of every southern state, those who have passed away in the after years of peace, and whose ashes now hallow old Henry’s hill sides, those who like a benediction, still limp in our midst. May God preserve forever in our hearts, their memory and in all minds, a knowledge of their motives and their cause.”

That is a beautifully written epigraph. As an English teacher I can appreciate the talent it took to pen those lines. But it is also a lie, and as a rational human being I can only regret the sad legacy of its deception. The statue’s epigraph begins as a tribute to fallen Confederate soldiers, but ends with something much different. It is the very last word that betrays the true purpose behind the statue: “Cause.”

This is a reference to a peculiarly Southern concept known as the “Lost Cause.” Briefly, the “Lost Cause” is the Southern re-interpretation of Southern history and the Civil War. It is propaganda disseminated by a number of groups, including the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the very organization that placed the monument under discussion. Lost Cause propaganda is intended to convince people that the Civil War was not about slavery, that slaves were happily dedicated to their owners, that the South was an honorable land victimized by evil Northern forces, and that the war was a noble Southern cause.

If the Lost Cause was just a curious relic from the past, this issue might be nothing more than a water-cooler topic that evoked mild interest and little emotional energy. But as we have seen, Confederate symbols generate anything but mild opinions and reactions. That is because the idea of the Southern Lost Cause is more than just history; it still exists. You might say that the Lost Cause is not lost, it still lives in the South. There are still people telling other people that the Civil War was not about slavery, that slaves were better off without freedom, and that the South is morally superior to the North. The statue is not dead history, it is living history, and it embodies ideas and values that are still promoted in our county.

For 110 years Henry County citizens have looked at that monument in McDonough Square and read its lie. Some know it’s a lie, some don’t. Some preserve the lie and pass it on. We are all part of history, and believing in a Lost Cause is easier than facing our own weaknesses and our own misdeeds.

One hundred ten years is an awfully long time to recognize and correct a mistake. The statue needs to go. Surely we can find something in our history that deserves to be memorialized in stone in the most important public place in our county. Let’s dedicate the next 110 years to creating and displaying a memorial that tells the truth about Henry County and celebrates all of her people.

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Michael Walter is a high school English teacher in Henry County. He has lived in Hampton with his wife Traci for past 27 years.

(32) comments

aveteran

Confederate veterans were conferred with many of the same benefits of other United States military veterans by Acts of Congress back in 1929 and 1957.

The statue honors the war dead. He is gazing out to the cemetery, where soldiers are buried.

How offended would the families of our war dead be, if France decided to turn the memorials at Normandy into a water fountain?

Today, it is the Monument honoring our war dead that is so offensive.

Tomorrow, it will be the Patrick Henry statue, on the square. (he was a slave owner)

Next week, someone will be offended because a Slave owner's name is on his license plate.

Where does it end... Obviously, a rhetorical question.

Put the options on a Ballot. That is the only way I will accept the decision to remove the monument.

Otherwise, it will forever seem an effort by a bunch of politicians to placate BLM. Who, in Henry County fears the violence of BLM? I, for one, do not want anything done to appear to be supportive of BLM. Please look into their demands, manifesto, and rhetoric, before you blindly voice support for them and their cause(s). The only thing positive about BLM, is their name, which is a misnomer.

Charlemagne

Something we need to come to grips with is the substance of these statues. These statues memorialize an idea and those that fought for it - slavery. The ordinances of secession of almost all states declared slavery was the issue. Alexander H Stephens said the same in his Cornerstone Speech. The ones represented in this statue killed more US soldiers than either the National Socialists or the Japanese during WWII. Imagine over 365,000 US soldiers being killed. Should we honor, elevate, and prominently recognize the ones responsible for those deaths? So between the issue of protecting the slavery of millions of people (unless we forget all men are created equal) and the treason that resulted in the deaths of over 365,000 US soldiers, these statues deserve absolutely no prominence. Removing them does NOT erase or change history. German students learn about Hitler & the Holocaust without a single National Socialist statue. If you defend these statues YOU are the one who has erased history. The elevation of a dark period of our nation's history can be done without a statue. This spits in the face of the ancestors that were enslaved as well as the ancestors of those who fought against treason. My "Southern heritage" has nothing to do with those statues or Confederate Battle Flag. I had southern ancestors that stayed loyal to their nation and joined the Union Army. There is no statue honoring them. They are not mentioned in textbooks. Time to recognize real heroes and patriots in our nation's history. Take down those who they themselves fought to erase that history.

Manelioness

I do not advocate for or against a “statue”! I advocate for the FREEDOM of the People to decide. Put it on the ballot and the Citizens in that locale will be represented not outsiders from other Cities! We should not tell Stockbridge or Hampton what their communities allow nor should they tell McDonough City! New heroes should be added to our history not replace the current or past ones! Hero’s are subjective based on culture, so to be representative for ALL it must be democratically or legislatively determined!

Charlemagne

As a veteran and as an ancestor of a Union soldier, it is disgraceful to honor and elevate those who advocated for treason, slavery, and the deaths of over 365,000 US soldiers. These were NOT heroes. Based on culture? What culture wants to defend that idea? How are traitors heroes? If the council or county commission decides to remove these monuments, that will be your democracy in action. And I will continue to advocate for that removal.

Manelioness

Culture deems that anyone from the North could never understand what “Heritage” means to a Southerner! Culture of different ethnicities could never understand one another’s emotions, traditions or values either. Diversity is tolerance of one another, not intolerance!

Manelioness

I would like to see HC hire Teachers who espouse FREEDOM, Liberty and justice for ALL! Our children need to be taught to have an open mind and research facts and not be indoctrinated based on one sided and narrow minded ideology by Teachers! Our children need to be respectful of others and their differences. Debate those differences while teaching them that solving problems democratically is what makes us a civilized society. I am disappointed when Teachers fail to teach our Constitutional FREEDOMS. God BLESS America!

ravenclaw

Mr. Walters, has made the case for removal of the monument both eloquently and most importantly in a historically correct manner. Today Mississippi voted to take the confederate battle flag off their state flag, the last of the southern states to do so. The confederate flag, as well as, confederate monuments have no place outside of a museum. These are powerful symbols of hate, white supremacy, and a false narrative, one that has been perpetuated by people that wrongfully say “it’s heritage not hate”. These monuments were erected almost entirely by a group of white women that choose to rewrite history. A history they were allowed to alter because it made poor whites feel better and to remind blacks of their “rightful” place. That is what these monuments are about. The subjugation of an entire race and a war fought to keep the brutality of slavery. This statue must go and it should have never been erected and placed in the middle of any town square. We should all be ashamed of this statute and what its stands for. Heritage can be hate and these disgusting symbols are a daily reminder of that. The heritage of the confederacy is hatred. The idea that the Civil War was not about slavery is laughable.

Manelioness

Opinions are like belly buttons, everyone has one and they are slanted based on our culture! Since we boast that we are a “diverse” culture, it is imperative that we understand that no one’s opinion is superior to anyone else’s! It is incumbent on each one of us to teach our children that differences make us valuable to a flourishing society and that is why obeying our laws and honoring our Constitutional Rights is our heritage.

ActualHistorian

Thank you for this wonderful perspective. The history and intent behind these monuments need to be widely understood. You’re very eloquent description could go a long way in spreading awareness.

Manelioness

Taxpayers in McDonough should decide the statue issue, put it on the ballot! Outsiders in Hampton should have no voice!

Dr. Pam

I live in McDonough and I say it should go!

Manelioness

Take it up with the Democrat Mayor!

Manelioness

Taxpayers in the City Limits of McDonough should decide the statue issue not Hampton or Henry Countians! Put it on the ballot and let the taxpaying residents decide, not outsiders!

Dr. Pam

That symbol of hate should have never been allowed to be placed in the McDonough Square by a private organization and it should have been removed a long time ago. This private organization doesn’t have the right to dictate what happens in McDonough. They can have their statue.

Manelioness

I believe the statue has been there for 110 years! I believe the citizens from that era had a different perspective!

Rltw@1975

Last week I spent four hours at the McDonough Square Statue. I observed probably 50 African American men and women walk by. Not once did I notice any of them look at this statue with any disdain.

All of us have to realized that what is happening in our country is not about removal of history but rather about segments of the population that are attempting to divide us. Just like the Civil War did. BLM has an agenda to destroy this country and remake it. Read what their leader posted. Next he wants to remove all the stained glass from the churches that depict Jesus Christ and his white mother. Jesus was not white, nor was his mother. The same BLM that believes "The only good cop is a dead cop" Remember the chanting, Pigs in a blanket, fryem like bacon. Perhaps Mr Walter's would like to add that to his teaching syllabus? I'm sure he'd like to. Teach your children Mr Walter's how evil and corrupt the law enforcement officers are. The ones who would gladly stand between you and a bullet should the need arise. Mr Walter's, I pity you. Why dont you and our other activist spend time trying to improve our country than finding ways to destroy it. I don't give a hoot about a statue. I'm not even from the south. But I am a citizen and a disabled veteran. I also spent time as a police officer. I know what socialism is and gave seen first hand what you and others can do to destroy a country. I've lived and fought in countrys where statues were destroyed. Ive seen the sorrow and grief that has been thrust on innocent people.

What's next Mr Walter's? This is about getting rid of a duly elected president. Simple as that. BLM said as much during a CNN interview. For 8 years we had a black president. Where was the outrage to theses statues then. If America is so full of systemic racism, why was he elected with such a large vote of white americans? If you want to transform this country to your socialist utopia, that I'm sure you teach your students...think back just a few weeks ago. Going to stores and finding shelves barren of essential items.

Think about it folks. Where does the madness and devicevness end? Don't think for a second this is about bn the sad and tragic death of George Floyd. The judicial system will take care of that. How many black innocent men women and children have been killed by black on black crime? Why no protests about this tragic statistic. Read the FBI Uniform Crime Reports. More white perpetrators are killed by police officers than black perpetrators.

I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to my death your right to espouse you liberal attitudes.

GOD BLESS AMERICA!

Manelioness

Amen

ActualHistorian

What you seen to not realize here is that the judicial system does not take care of these matters which is the main problem. Black Americans are being killed for no reason and the perpetrators are seeing little to no justice-just look at our own Ahmaud Arbery. Black on black crime is a myth and touting it is both racist and uneducated.

And why should Black people have to look in disgust every time they pass a reminder of the racism that still persists in the world to this day. Do you have any idea how exhausting and emotionally taxing that would be? I’ll also state that there have been movements and petitions to rid the world of these horrible memorials for decades. If you recall, there was a massive push in 2015, under Obama that resulted in the move or dismantlement of dozens.

It’s incredibly obvious you do not actually understand the official doctrine of the BLM movement and have only heard the filtered media version so I implore you to check out the actual website and read their tenants and then make an informed decision.

Also, if everyone’s so terrified of “socialism” and points to our horrendous handling of the coronavirus as an example, funny how it happened under our Capitalism utopia and Trump. Canada did not have the same issues. Britain didn’t either. Actually, the rest of the western world, which is democratic socialist (which is what many Americans want and yes, there’s a huge difference from socialism), are doing pretty amazing comparatively.

GOD SAVE YOUR SOUL

Manelioness

All Citizens have different issues, problems and opinions and that is why these differences must be democratically or legislatively solved.

Kgc197111

No, it's time to stop being offended by everything just because you don't like it. I though the majority was to rule but now its the minority and the heck with what everyone else wants.

Manelioness

Majority decides, not the minority! Put it on the ballot! No Outside agitators!

ravenclaw

If the majority decided all things in this country there would not be an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act.)

ActualHistorian

Get rid of gerrymandering and allow an actual majority vote and we’ll talk

ActualHistorian

Picture this, I kidnap your mother and hold her hostage. She dies and is buried in an unmarked grave and you’re not allowed to visit her or reclaim her. A couple decades pass and the town decides to build a statue of me and talk about how I was such an honorable person. Also, the entire purpose is to remind you that if I had to opportunity, I would also kidnap you and force you to work for me. Now let’s put it where you’re forced to see it everyday and if you dare complain, someone tells you to get over it. After all, it was just your mom and it was so many years ago. Besides think about all the good I did while also enslaving her.

So no, it’s not that I “don’t like it.” These statues were built at the height of white supremacy action as a direct threat and reminder to Black Americans that many believed the Confederacy was justified and would rise again.

If the majority actually learns about the history and intent of these statues and still chooses to keep them, the majority need to go ahead and admit to being racist.

ravenclaw

I believe you misunderstood my intentions by me invoking the ADA, my intent was to say that in America, the majority does not always set the ways. I believe all confederate statues should be taken down.

alg8r@aol.com

Well written Mr. Walter.

I can only assume then that you would not be opposed to walking across the street and taking down the statue of slave owner Patrick Henry and renaming our county.

‘In for a penny, in for a pound’.

mwalter

That's a good point that I've thought about for a while. Still thinking on it.

By the way, does the "g8r" in your username mean you're a Gator? I only ask because I am indeed a Gator myself.

Manelioness

Put it on the ballot and let the taxpayers decide what goes on in their community not outsiders! That would mean, taxpaying citizens of McDonough not Henry County or Hampton!

Tinkluvs2

Amen! People say “We must learn from history”. I agree, but learning and celebrating or memorializing are different things. We don’t need a statue in the square dedicated to someone or something that reminds people of a time when we as a country were killing each other. How about we vote on a replacement statue that unites our county; reminds us of a moment in history when we all came together? A 911 memorial maybe. A miniature Statue of Liberty? Just MHO. [smile]

Dlmc

Move it to a cemetery that has a large section Confederate Solders buried there and build a new memorial to all solders from all wars the United States has been involved in.

Manelioness

If you are a taxpaying resident in the City of McDonough, your vote can decide. If not, your opinion is mute!

ActualHistorian

That’s a wonderful idea

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