By Charles P. Brinkman, Alexandria (File photo)
To the editor:
I am stuck by the fervency of those who oppose even the slightest repositioning of the “Appomattox” statue from its position of prominence in the intersection of Prince and Washington streets.
They say that it is disrespectful of the memory of those who died; they note the soldier’s mournful look; they sentimentalize the assembly of men going off to war to protect their way of life.
As individuals,Confederate soldiers were probably no better or worse than their federal enemies, but make no mistake: Their ultimate cause was the continuation and expansion of the institution of slavery.
We should disabuse ourselves from reconciling two and a half centuries of slavery with the bromide of states’
rights or the excuse that Northerners also were complicit in its function.
Those who fought for the Confederacy were misguided by a racist political leadership and wrong no matter how heroic their sacrifice. Moving the statue a few feet does not obliterate history — nor should it — and does not denigrate the valor of the soldiers who fought nor lessen the remembrance by their descendants. But it would be a symbolic recognition that the Confederacy was not just a “lost cause” but also a wrong one.
Alexander Stephens said in March 1861: “As a race, the African is inferior to the white man. Subordination to the white man is his normal condition. He is not his equal by nature and cannot be made so by human laws or human institutions. Our system, therefore, so far as regards this inferior race, rests upon this great immutable law of nature.”
Jefferson Davis also stated in 1861 that the cause of his state’s secession was that “she had heard proclaimed the theory that all men are created free and equal, and this made the basis of an attack upon her social institutions; and the sacred Declaration of Independence has been invoked to maintain the position of the equality of the races.”
There are ample examples of more vile appeals to the worst fears that people had concerning the abolition of slavery. Sadly, many good and brave people died on both sides of the Civil War and it plunged the South into decades of stag- nation and decay.
We should remember the Confederacy for what it was instead of papering it over with the textbook excuses taught to our school children and glorifying its memory. How can we lament the pogroms of the 20th century without disavowing our nation’s own complicity in enslaving millions?
Let us take a lesson that bigotry can still raise its head in appeals to fear of those who are a different color, practice a different religion, come from a different place, speak a different language or are merely poor and so do not belong in our neighborhoods.
I do not really care whether the statue stays or moves. What bothers me is the denial inherent in the adamant opposition to moving it.