By Jeremy Patton
This article concerns the protest in Charlottesville, Virginia by white supremacists who oppose the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from a public park. The white supremacists are motived by racism, but many well-intending Americans believe that the statue should remain, due to its historical merit.
Whether or not a Confederate display is historical, rather than a glorification of slavery and racism, depends on its context.
A display appearing in a museum or battlefield that gives a factual and unbiased account of the war is historical. Monuments depicting both sides of the conflict would be most appropriate.
A stand-alone display at the courthouse or a public park, however, could rightly be interpreted as a glorification of the Confederacy, which is contrary to American ideals of liberty and equality.
Some argue that the removal of public displays is a violation of freedom of expression, but American citizens are free to erect the likeness of Robert E. Lee in their front yards without government interference. Their private property and freedom of expression are protected.
Public property, however, is owned by everyone. It is paid for by our tax dollars. White supremacists can spout hatred, but they are not obliged to force it upon the rest of us.
Again, the historicity of Confederate monuments depend on their context. They belong in museums, not as stand-alone glorifications in public parks.
The Confederates LOST THE WAR. Why should we, the victors, tolerate the veneration of our enemies and their hateful ideology?
Added 8/13/17 – Updated 8/17/17