Remember, Don’t Honor

Benedict Arnold was a great officer—until he wasn’t!    He was a brilliant strategist who led us to victory in multiple battles and was promoted to the rank of major general and given charge of fortifications at West Point.  He then planned to clandestinely surrender West Point to the British!   His plan was disrupted and he defected to the British where he was given the rank of brigadier general and led troops against the United States. 

Do you know any Americans who attended Benedict Arnold Elementary School?  Do you know any veteran who was ever stationed at Fort Arnold?  Have you ever posed for a picture standing by a statue of Benedict Arnold?   No, to all of those questions.  (There is a statue of a boot that is said to commemorate Benedict Arnold but his name isn’t even on it.  There was also a Fort Arnold but it was renamed after his betrayal.)  Without those honors, we have never forgotten him or what he did.  The same should be true with regards to the Confederate States of America and its leaders.   

Think about the actual words of the Pledge of Allegiance:  “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

We are the “UNITED States.”  The Confederate States tried to break that unity.

We are “ONE NATION.”  The Confederate States tried to make us two.

We are “INDIVISIBLE.”  The Confederate States took up arms to divide us.

We proclaim “LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL.”  The Confederate States did what they did primarily in defense of slavery which is diametrically opposed to liberty and justice for all.

It is true that the Civil War and the Confederacy are a part of our history and should never be forgotten. That history should be commemorated in museums and on historical markers at significant locations; it should be written about in our text books and taught in our schools.  

But we must remember that while the Confederacy should never be forgotten, it should never be praised, glorified, or honored.  (It is not hyperbole to say that Confederate leaders, both civilian and military, were treasonous.  Taking up arms against the United States is the very definition of treason.)   But the truth is, we have already done so.   We’ve also placed statues in town squares and other places of honor.  We have flown their flag in front of government offices, courts, and on our military bases.  We have even honorifically named schools, parks, and military bases in their honor.  

The time has come to remedy that mistake.  Statues in places of honor (town squares, in front of public libraries, etc.) should be relocated to museums and/or proper historical sites.  Schools, military bases, parks, streets, etc., that have been named in honor of Confederate leaders should be renamed.  It’s time the southern states that formed the Confederacy recognize that the Civil War is a scar in their history, not a highlight.  It should not be seen as bragging rights, but as an embarrassment. It’s time they identify and lift up new heroes and new symbols to express their southern pride.

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