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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Columns

Letter to the Editor: Taking down statues will remove history


Counter protesters at the Black Lives Matter protest for taking down the Spirit of the Confederacy statue. | Dana C. Jones/The Cougar

An opinion columnist in this newspaper recently wrote a column in favor of a Houston protest that centered around removing a Confederate statue from Sam Houston Park. The writer makes certain points in favor of the Black Lives Matter-led protest

We have reached a point in our national debate where memorials to our history are in conflict with the popular culture. Long-standing monuments and flags are linked with current fringe ideology.

It seems that many people have lost the ability to separate historical significance and the hateful rhetoric that is coming from many sides of the debate today.

I fear that, like other aspects of the social justice movement, removing or dismantling monuments from the past is leading us down a dangerous path, one where any reference to the past that doesn’t line up perfectly with our moral views of the moment will be shunned from memory and labeled as evil.

It is typical of our current political climate. Instead of looking to promote better awareness on the topic, the goal is to stifle debate and clear away what is disliked.

This is an easy way to forget our past and a convenient way for protest groups to attach significance to their cause.

The United States has seen moral conflicts over its relatively short history. It is vital that we know our history and understand these conflicts, taking the positive lessons and using them for the future while critically searching for the negative to discard it and make sure it is not to be repeated.

We are going about this critical analysis of history the wrong way. Many people want to take their social and political views of today and judge historical figures through that lens. This is convenient for their cause but does not make for an appropriate way to judge history.

The men who are honored in these statues may have participated in slavery or served as commanders on the losing side of the Civil War, but they also played important roles in shaping our country and state.

The University of Texas removed Confederate statues from its campus recently, and the president of the school went so far as to say that “Confederate monuments have become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism.”

This can only happen if we let it.

It’s a sad reality that these modern white supremacists and neo-Nazis — with their vile hatred and disgusting ideology — have been able to co-opt monuments to men who lived and died long before Nazism was even a part of the world. We shouldn’t allow them to hijack history like this.

As Texas A&M University considers the removal of a statue of Lawrence “Sul” Ross, will the administration remember that he was a president of their university responsible for implementing many traditions that they hold dear today? Should the fact that he was the 19th governor of Texas be forgotten? One has to wonder if Sul Ross State University in Alpine will be the next place challenged in this history clearing crusade.

It should be made clear: Hate groups, no matter the ideology, should not be given the credibility they are looking for.

The neo-Nazi, white supremacist fringe groups we see today deserve no sympathy. It is possible to stand in a park or on a campus and recognize the historical significance of a statue or monument without giving credence to every deed or every belief of the past.

Many of the people who want to see these statues remain, even some of those in counter-protest, are doing so out of a respect for history and not a hateful or intolerant heart.

Staff writer Conner Jones is a supply chain and logistics technology senior. He can be reached at [email protected]

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