Today in Seattle tensions are mounting as a group of people demand the removal of a Confederate monument in Lake View Cemetery. This happens from time to time. You might remember Destroying the Seattle Confederate Memorial from two years ago in which I mention the diverse parties involved in its dedication.
Earlier today I was informed that Lake View Cemetery might be somehow obscuring this monument in response to calls to remove it, so I called to ask for the facts before I commented. Lake View has respectfully removed vulgarities from this monument over the years just as they would from any monument there. Evidently they’ve been very busy so it will likely take them some time to answer. I should add that they are consistently responsive and helpful, and that this famed burial ground houses people from all walks.
This afternoon I noticed that a story written by a major Seattle news source reported that the inscription on this memorial says “Erected by Robert E. Lee.” It was almost funny because Lee died 56 years before this monument was placed. But this omission of the rest of the inscription, intentional or not, was potentially inflammatory. We don’t need more fuel on the fire of civil unrest. The actual inscription reads “Erected by Robert E. Lee Chapter Number 885 United Daughters of the Confederacy 1926” prefaced by “In Memory of the United Confederate Veterans.”
Because of this omission I contacted this news source and asked if they would correct this on a factual basis. I pointed out that the modern UDC is very clear about standing against racism– in other words, know these women before you criticize them. What followed left me gobsmacked. This is not verbatim but it does convey the sentiment.
I was told that anything supporting the Confederacy supports white supremacy, racism, and slavery. I said, “So anyone who supported the Confederacy is white supremacist, racist, and pro-slavery?” His answer: yes.
“What about the larger issue of secession?” I asked. (No answer.) I was told that the South fought to keep slavery alive. I believe I said something about expecting more factual reporting and objectivity, but anyway, asked if they would correct their article, politics aside. I haven’t even looked to see if they did after this experience.
That belief, that anyone who supported the Confederacy is white supremacist, racist, and pro-slavery, underscores the ignorance and assumptions that are dividing our country in two. We are losing the republic by not having our facts straight and not respecting other citizens’ freedoms. Angry, self-righteous, narrow-mindedness that denies others freedom of speech and expression will be the death of our union if we don’t get a grip.
In my Generation Xer lifetime I’ve witnessed a remarkable shift from critical thinking, fact-checking, and intelligent civil discourse to politics and activism based more on emotions like anger. Facts seem to have become increasingly unimportant. It’s now hip to wield a broad brush and make scathing generalizations about anyone who disagrees with you, attacking people rather than policy or politics.
In the age of social media we go online calling others Nazis, fascists, racists, bigots, and haters not because they actually are those things, but because these are the labels we slap on those who disagree with us. The frightening aspect to this, one that threatens civilization, is that we are losing track of– or don’t care– what these terms actually mean. Merriam and Webster seem to be anachronistic relics of a less enlightened era.
Nazism advocates totalitarianism. What is totalitarianism? The state rules. The state makes the rules. The state gets total control. Nazism is also equated with fascism. What is facism? It’s similar. The state rules, usually with a dictator at its head. There is no freedom to disagree and there is strict social and economic control. Some fascist states have ruled without employing terror but both ideologies might employ it. Racism tends to be more prevalent in totalitarianism. Scholars can debate the finer points all day but here’s the bottom line: Nazism, totalitarianism, and fascism are all about control and the state controlling individuals.
Here’s an example of irony: Antifrees. At least that’s what I call them. This Antifa group, claiming to be anti-fascist, labels those who disagrees with them fascists and then resorts to violence to protest “fascists.” Do you see what’s wrong with this picture? Antifa and similar organizations are the actual fascists by denying others’ individuals rights and using violence to try to force others into compliance. They are judge, jury, and executioner, showing no respect for the right to have a differing opinion in a free country.
Whatever they call themselves, this and similar terroristic, thuggish, accusatory ideologies have been tried before. They’ve resulted in hundreds of millions of deaths. Call it totalitarianism, fascism, Nazism, Communism, or what have you, these systems of thought have the same basic idea that causes the same problems: one group has control of a nation and it crushes dissenters. This is accomplished by polarizing and punishing those who advocate for individual rights. These are unquestionably undemocratic philosophies as well.
Note that if you label someone “extreme right,” and they’re just a Reagan Republican who believes in less government, you’re way off. Isms want more government and fewer rights. Isms exist at either side of the traditional political spectrum. A better version of the spectrum would be to put all the liberties-sucking, control-driven, dictatorial ideas on one end and little to no government or governmental control on the other. Extreme isms always bring death. So can anarchy. Stay away from those edges.
How about the ‘phobes? It is hip right now to call someone a ______phobe if they disagree with you. If you speak out against elements of Islam that contradict our Constitution or disregard women’s, human, or animal rights, you an Islamophobe. What is a phobia? It’s an extreme, irrational fear. Irrational implies that there’s little to no logical basis for that fear. It’s just a knee jerk reaction that’s likely unfounded and unfair. It doesn’t matter if you track human rights violations like female genital mutilation or domestic violence; you speak out on one issue, you’re a ‘phobe on all counts.
Xenophobe is another term thrown around like popcorn in the bed of a ’64 pickup on a bumpy back road. You might be against immigration for financial reasons and want to take care of homeless veterans or the elderly or foster children in your own country first. But– shazam– you’re a xenophobe because you’re clearly against foreigners. Xenophobes shouldn’t be concerned with our astronomical national debt and the financial train wreck we are leaving our children.
How dare you take care of your own people first. Worse yet, you’ve shown the desire to put your nation first. You’re a patriotic nationalist! Nationalists surely must be racists. Using popular warped logic, that makes you a fascist! If you are a fascist, then you are a Nazi! This is the new math of politics. It doesn’t care about facts. It just accuses. You are an ist of every ilk no matter what you actually, factually believe.
Then there’s the very popular label of “hater.” “Hate” has nearly lost its meaning. If you agree with the possibility that a local criminal is a sociopath, you’re a hater. If you advocate for punishment instead of reformation, you’re a hater. If you’re a churchgoer and peacefully disagree while showing respect to those different from you, but take a public stand on a moral issue, you’re a hater. “Choose love,” they say, using “love” as a reason to ostracize others.
It’s getting to the point that unless you agree that anything goes, you’re a hater. Superman’s Bizarro World where up is down and backwards is forwards is consuming our culture. True hate and intolerance are unacceptable to me. Calling someone a hater or intolerant because I disagree with them is just an excuse not to have a rational, constitutionally-based defense to my beliefs ready.
It is alarming to see a nation devolve into high school bullying. What happened to the ability to sit down and have a civil conversation with someone different than ourselves? Instead I see a profession that claims to be objective engaged in 24/7 obsession with manic oppression. The media seems to have gone mad, tilting at windmills, laser-focused on perceived slights when much larger injustices and issues plague our world.
After various media personalities become incensed, emotional, and loud, social media erupts with “so and so demolished or destroyed so and so.” I listen, and most of the time I just see a feelings-charged freak out with no real facts or logic behind it. Most of these tirades can’t even address the original “offense” point by point. It’s just lashing out. So-called entertainers do this night after night and people laud their rationale as if it’s the best way to fight against figures and philosophies they frown upon.
The current national climate is also like domestic violence: “You are what I say you are!” Remember that? For those who’ve been in abusive relationships, a huge portion of our population, you know what it’s like to be called filthy words you never deserved that bear no resemblance to reality. If anything, the abuser was projecting onto you words that described themselves. If you yell, “Fascist! Nazi! Bigot!” at me and try to shut me down because I have an opinion that is different from yours, think about that. Who’s trying to control who?
Most importantly, you don’t have to agree with what your neighbor/spouse/friend/congressman/coworker/pastor/teacher/pet sitter is saying. They have a right to freedom of speech and expression backed by the mighty U.S. Constitution. Yes, this is a constitutional right. You don’t have to be happy about it. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to listen or agree or applaud. That is your right. But you have no right to try and limit someone else’s rights. Your rights end where their nose begins. Their rights are just as important and guaranteed as yours.
Returning to the Confederacy issue that sparked this post, there is a swelling movement to tear down all Confederate monuments. Using the sanctimonious statement I encountered earlier today, all Confederate monuments are a celebration of white supremacy, racism, and slavery. On that note, tearing them down sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Why would anyone want to celebrate that? Hold on. Could there are have been other reasons for these monuments? Could these be freedom of speech? Have we bothered to read the history or understand why or are we just making assumptions to feel superior about ourselves?
Of course slavery is one of the horrors of human history. Speaking of that, there are more slaves now than there ever were before. How many of these masked protesters would go into battle to save even one trafficked girl? Per my Christian beliefs, racism is denying that we are all made in His image and have equal value. Devaluing or persecuting someone based on the color of their skin– as if they even control that!– is astoundingly ignorant. I’ve often said that supremacists of all shades need to go have DNA tests and, hello, Jesus wasn’t a white guy. I’m sure that most Americans agree that slavery, racism, and race-based supremacy are detrimental.
Because we generally agree that these things are bad, we want to erase symbols of them. But the cry to tear down Confederate memorials is ridiculously subjective. It dictates how others can or can’t memorialize their dead and their history. They say, “because it is Confederate, it needs to go!” Let’s try this logic on other quasi-random concepts:
-If the state of California were to successfully secede from the union, a movement largely driven by Progressives, then their names should be stricken from history and it should be illegal to memorialize this act in any way.
-The State of Washington should be renamed because George Washington owned slaves. So should D.C.
-Anyone who believed in preserving the union but owned slaves should not be considered a Unionist. Take down all likenesses.
-Any Southerner who fought out of loyalty to their family, state, or states’ rights is a supremacist bigot. None of them ever changed their views either.
-Because our English ancestors oppressed our Scottish ancestors– or our Arab ancestors sold our African ancestors into slavery– or insert any conflict between people groups on any continent– we should disavow that people group in its entirety. Don’t value anything admirable. They’re just evil.
-If I say you’re a racobigofascitotaliphobahateaholic, you are. Disregard the long-accepted and objective definitions of these terms and just go with it. It’s what the cool kids do.
-There’s a monument to William Henry Seward just next door to Lake View Cemetery in Volunteer Park. His family owned slaves. Should that statue be removed despite his own opposition to slavery and tremendous sacrifices on behalf on the Union? Some Alaskans didn’t want sculptures of what they deemed an imperialist white man in Juneau.
-If there’s a monument that offends me, I have the right to vandalize it, desecrate it, and tear it down, even over someone’s grave. Their remains and resting place are no longer sacred.
-It doesn’t matter if a monument is on private property. It should be subject to the same laws that public property is. (Totalitarianism, anyone? That distinction must remain.)
-Symbols of Christianity and Judaism are offensive to me as well as the Confederacy. I demand that those be taken down as well.
-Should we progress to book burning? Why not? (Does anyone see parallels to the “isms” here? See why some consider this Marxist revisionism?)
When does it stop? Where do we draw the line? This could go on and on. If it does, it becomes one group taking freedoms from others and dictating what is acceptable. They could even demand replacements that enshrine ideals and individuals that are just as offensive to huge groups of other Americans. Instead, we need to have dialogues, conversations, respectful exchanges. We need to study our history and stand in others’ shoes for a moment to try to understand where they’re coming from.
I don’t have the right to go break anything I think is bigoted. If I did, I’d be down in Fremont right now taking a sledgehammer to the abhorrent monstrosity that is the Vladimir Lenin statute. Oh, no big deal, millions were murdered in the Red Holocaust, but it’s just a neat piece of art that blends nicely into Seattle’s kitsch. If it offends someone who came to America to escape such oppression, they just don’t get the joke.
As I said in another forum today, some of us have been telling Seattle to take the Lenin out of its own eye for a while. The hypocrisy of having Lenin there while demanding that other monuments be taken down bothers some more than the actual statue, which could be construed as an homage to one of humanity’s greatest mass murderers. Some have wondered if Ted Bundy and Hitler would be okay there too.
(It could be argued that the structure celebrates what was good about Lenin. Or it’s just art that’s well done. Alright, then please stay on that track when addressing other monuments.)
Broad brushes. Grandiose generalizations. Feelings freak outs. These can be lazy and disrespectful ways to get your points across. Many of you know not to try these tactics on your children– “You always do this!” “You overreact every time!” “You make me crazy!” Your kids will out logic you and/or suffer because you aren’t acting like an adult. It’s okay to use this behavior with adults you disagree with though?
We need to return to our roots. People will die if we continue to allow these subjective labels, violence, and terrorism to continue. Try empathy– understanding the backstory. Try respect– you can speak respectfully even during strong disagreements (think Lincoln-Douglas). Try objectivity– being true to the classic definitions of words and concepts we throw at others. Try having friends who believe differently than you and celebrate what you have in common instead. Try patriotism– being proud of the diverse people who make up this country and the checks and balances our differences provide.
Ultimately there are forces in this world that are savoring every moment of Americans turning on other Americans. If we divide ourselves, we destroy ourselves, making us subject to some other nation or coalition that is an ism– something that won’t value our rights or property or freedoms. Have you considered that we’re playing right into some greater evil’s hands by so flippantly labeling and deriding our neighbors?
Don’t be a useful idiot. Be a passionate individual who expresses yourself and intelligently speaks out for what you believe in. Exercise your American freedoms and use them to achieve justice for others. Having both strong Democrat and Republican role models growing up, I greatly admire people who blaze with enthusiasm for their core values and can advocate for them without alienating their neighbors. They are the people who draw varying opinions into conversations, not insult them and spit them out. They are the brave souls who actually achieve reform and change the world rather than dividing it.
I understand why some want the Confederate memorial in Lake View Cemetery removed. But I disagree with actually removing it. It would be removed on the basis that it’s about racism, white supremacy, and slavery. It is more than that. It is a part of our collective history, a history that should never be forgotten. Americans should be allowed to commemorate their ancestors and graves especially should be off limits. We should not cave in to terrorism and criminal behavior either. If this is taken down, it will just cause even bigger fires. And is this the best thing Seattle has to do considering the state of its mayoral office and widespread human suffering?
We are Americans. To survive we must stay united. We are allowing ourselves to be divided by petty preconceptions and money-making mayhem manufacturers. Allowing one side to issue orders to another about what is right and acceptable without any constructive dialogue or fact-checking is just unleashing the wrecking ball that will take us out. Leave the dead where they lie and focus on saving the living. Let’s leave future generations an intact democratic republic instead of a black hole.
Update, 8/17/17: Here is verbiage from one of the online petitions demanding that the monument in Lake View come down. Note that these petitions claim that this monument was raised in the name of white supremacy– they are completely ignorant of the monument’s history. They obviously haven’t bothered to talk to the UDC or read their explicitly anti-racist creed. It’s their own version of reality, demanding that a structure on private property be subject to the same rules as public property.
How dare they blindly accuse this group of women as being white supremacist and racist. How dare they trample on others’ freedom of speech. They claim the monument serves no historical purpose– wow. One petition says that because you can see it from the road, it should be considered to be in the right-of-way and the land it’s on should be treated like a public place (!).
This is radical, dangerous thinking that ignores facts, didn’t even attempt to have a dialogue, and wants the government to force a private property owner to do their misinformed bidding. These sentiments are divisive and tear at the very bedrock of our Constitution. They have no right to prevent someone else from memorializing their people on private land. I’m sure some supporters mean well and are trying to do the right thing, but some just plain want to label and control other people’s business in some misguided quest to sanitize our nation of anything that disagrees with them. This has happened before, it got out of control, and hundreds of millions died.
This isn’t bigotry. This is history. Deal with it and stop falsely accusing others.
Erected in 1926 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, it was built to memorialize and commemorate the hate that ripped our country in two. It seeks to remind everyone that – despite losing a war – that White Supremacy is still alive and revered as a positive trait for (white) Americans to have. The fact that it still stands is a testament to how desperately White people clench to their race-based power.
With respect to the mayor, he should mind his own business on political speech or historic symbolism when they’re erected on private property. It’s not the role of the government to chill free speech rights, even if we find it abhorrent. He knows he has no power to compel them to remove the memorial, so all this statement does is serve as a heavy-handed dose of virtue signaling that injects him into a national conversation that he should have no part in.
And perhaps, given the allegations against the Mayor, I’m not sure he should hold himself up there as a moral authority in any fight to stand up against oppressors.
While Depeche Mode’s politics likely differ from my own, they knocked it out of the park with this song. This is the kind of fearless statement that can and should ignite constructive dialogues.
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