Because my parents raised me right, I can speak fluently about 80s movies. Including the Back To The Future trilogy. The trilogy is essentially a story of time traveling and the pros and cons of what that includes. The main character, Marty McFly, learns as he goes that the past is a fragile thing that cannot and should not be messed with or changed. Unfortunately, it seems not everyone has learned the lesson my friend Marty learned in the 1980s.
No matter how many statues you tear down or how many rallies you hold or how many flags you burn, history is set in stone. Tearing down Thomas Jefferson’s statue doesn’t rewind the clock and free the slaves he owned. Burning the Confederate flag doesn’t eliminate the South’s influence in the Civil War. It doesn’t affect the past, it just hurts the present.
Nazis aren’t cool. White supremacy isn’t cool. Racism isn’t cool. It’s disgusting. It makes me sick to my stomach to see all of these alive and thriving in the 21st century. But the way to defeat this hate is not by tearing down historical monuments.
I can’t pretend I know what it feels like to be racially segregated. Or how some people feel when they see the Confederate flag or a Civil War monument or statue. But I do know what those monuments mean to me.
I see the bridges our country has crossed through those monuments. I see the pain we once faced and have fought to move past. Destroying those is the same as turning our backs on all the progress that has been made. It was a painful time and is a difficult subject, but it doesn’t represent us anymore. Whether the Civil War was fought because of state’s rights or slavery, we’re better because of it.
I’ve only read bits and pieces of George Orwell’s 1984, but I read enough of it to see what happens when people try to obliterate history. In the book, the dystopian government has erased all mentions of their past in books, in monuments, etc., etc. Because of this, no one remembers what happened before them. They don’t know what wars were fought for what or who argued back for what price. It’s not exactly a pretty situation.
So no, I don’t see those statues or flags as a sign of racism or bigotry. I see them as progress and healing and a promise of how much more we’ll grow. History is so important for our growth. We learn it in school for a reason- even if it seems like it’s all useless events that will never affect us (All my history teachers are rolling their eyes because I’m guilty of saying that very thing in their class). Those events do affect us and will most likely affect us in the future when history takes another lap.
I get that some people associate the Civil War, the Confederacy, and everything relating to it, to racism. I get that. Racism is revolting. It’s an everyday thing. While I haven’t received it, I’ve seen it, as has most of the country, unfortunately. Jokes, slurs, remarks, etc., etc. It’s there. It’s quiet. Violence isn’t the answer. We saw in Charlottesville how counteractive violence on both sides worked. Hatred will always exist, but it doesn’t have to be tolerated.
As for the Confederate monument in Stephenville; don’t touch it. Look at it and see how that pain made the country greater. The veterans that the monument is remembering enlisted because they believed in their cause. No matter what side someone fought for, each and every one of them fought for the future that we live in now. That ought to be remembered.