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The Desecration of ‘Silent Sam’; Or, the Ruination of Calm, Rational Debate in The United States

‘Silent Sam’ Statue Toppled on the Campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — Photo by Gerry Broom/Associated Press

Another statue has been torn down in the name of political correctness in an attempt to whitewash and remove from memory a visible recognition of a terrible time in the history of the United States. The ‘Silent Sam’ statue was erected on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1913 to memorialize those students who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the bloody Civil War. On August 20, 2018, angry students pulled down the statue and once again went about destroying another piece of history that reminds the country from whence we came and what we have overcome. In this nation from 1861 through 1865, a war was fought where brother fought brother and sometimes fathers fought sons to determine whether the state’s right to choose was upheld instead of letting the federal government decide how states governed themselves. Many questions surround what is occurring in 2018, there are determined groups pushing their political, racial, social, and economic agendas through the use of intolerant epithets and violent acts. This intolerance and violence is not limited to one political party but falls across the entire political spectrum from far right to far left.

‘Silent Sam’ prior to being vandalized — Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Can a statue represent racism? Yes and No. A statue of Robert E. Lee is deemed racist because he chose to fight for his home state of Virginia, a Confederate state, during the Civil War. And, it is believed that he wanted to maintain slavery in the South. This has been debated extensively, but the real reason Lee fought for the Confederacy was loyalty to his home state. A statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. could be deemed racist now that the nation has laws that protect minorities as a measure to prevent discrimination. So, what has happened since Martin Luther King, Jr. protested the Jim Crow laws of a segregated South might be said to have created reverse racism where Caucasians are now being discriminated against.

What I am trying to say here is that when looked at through the lens of history, both Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King, Jr. could be deemed racist and then again, neither man could be deemed racist because both men campaigned for a cause they believed in their hearts as worthy. There are redeemable qualities in all men, and whether or not we agree that either man should be memorialized in a monument, we cannot take it upon ourselves to violently pull down statues we disagree with philosophically. There are more appropriate ways this could be handled that would better the nation as a whole.

Can a statue be a memorial to those lost no matter the conflict? Yes, in the case of the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, it stands in memory of all those who died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The same can also be said of ‘Silent Sam.’ The United Daughters of the Confederacy erected the statue to memorialize all those young men from the University of North Carolina who died during those four bloody Civil War years. So, both statues memorialize the honorable death of individuals caught in two different conflicts. One was a terrorist act against the United States that killed United States citizens, and the other was a declared war between two sovereign nations, The United States of America and The Confederate States of America. At the time of the war, both countries were recognized as such, and the war was fought based on the rules of warfare in existence at the time. Since 785,000 plus men, women, and children died during the Civil War, how can a monument to those men from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who died in the Civil War represent slavery and racism? That statue memorializes students who paid the ultimate sacrifice in battle. That would be like saying in 50 or 100 years, that the United States government or some person who died September 11, 2001, committed some act deemed inappropriate and we need to remove the 9/11 Memorial because it offends a specific group of people.

Can removing a statue erase history? Not at all, as long as the first-hand accounts and the documentation of that time period remain to be reviewed and contemplated. History books can be re-written to remove or whitewash periods of history that are deemed offensive to some group, but as long as the first-hand accounts remain there is always the opportunity to learn the truth as told by those who were there. Native Americans were mistreated badly by the United States; yet, that history has been maintained because to prevent history from repeating itself, we must learn from it. Mount Rushmore is a national monument to presidents, two, Washington and Jefferson, of which owned slaves, but there is no debate that their slave ownership did not override the good they did the nation as a whole. Theodore Roosevelt during his time ranching in South Dakota helped with the dispossession of the Plains Indians, but what he gave back to the nation in the establishment of the National Parks Service redeemed this blemish on his record. You also have the Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC and for some in the South, the Lincoln Memorial could be deemed offensive because of what he oversaw during the Civil War. But, there are not any groups fighting for the removal of those reminders of our nation’s history. And, what the vandalistic way the ‘Silent Sam’ statue was removed displays to the community of Chapel Hill and the greater nation is that people no longer tolerate differing opinions. Hate speech and violent actions take the place of honest dialogue and calm, rational debate.

Basically, the history of the United States from the beginning of its existence is being rewritten seemingly by whichever group of people can scream the loudest epithets of intolerance and back those epithets up with violence. Left or right does not matter, what matters is what can Americans do to stem this tide of hate-filled rhetoric seen daily on everything from Fox News to CNN and from Twitter to Facebook from the President, celebrity, and private citizen alike? 140 character sound bites that limit debate and resort to name-calling when strong positions pro or con some issue are posted will not change until someone decides to, instead of posting illogical hate-filled namecalling commentary, post commentary that is logical and fact-based with a willingness to debate without rancor.

While I firmly disagree with how the ‘Silent Sam’ statue was pulled down on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and believe those students should be held accountable for their actions, I also think that instead of hate-filled rhetoric and taking instant offense to political, social, gender, or other positions that I do not agree, we should work to bridge the gap and debate these positions with logic, fact, and decorum that in the long run could bring the nation back together instead tearing it asunder.

I am willing to listen and debate honestly without rancor because that’s the only way we can come together and work out the political, social, economic, and other issues facing the United States. Whether you agree or disagree with this position, would you be willing me to meet me halfway and open a dialogue built around discussion instead of anger? Let me know what you think.

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