Erasing Offense

userpic=divided-nationI have friends on FB of all political stripes, and I’ve recently been seeing some common themes from conservative friends that are starting to irk me — and so I’d like to expound upon them for a bit.

  • Erasing History. I have been seeing many conservative folks stating that the removal of Confederate Monuments is an attempt to erase history. Such an opinion reflects I biased misunderstanding of the rationale for removal. History, in general, cannot be erased. It leaves marks much deeper than monuments. The Civil War left a divided nation: a nation whose divisions (and their mishandling by the Democratic party of that era — which is different than the Democratic party of today) lived on in Jim Crow laws and racial segregation in the South. Blacks may have become citizens, but they never achieved full civil rights until somewhat recently. Most of the statues that went up in the 1910-1940 periods (and I’m distinguishing them from plaques recognizing actual burial places of soldiers) were put up not to remember the South’s loss in the war (which is what the history was), but to remind people of the “good old days” and what the South was fighting for — slavery and the subjugation of the black and poor. And yes, that is what the South was fighting for: cheap labor in the form of slaves. The recasting of the war as one for states rights was the real erasure of history, an attempt to play down the racial aspects of the war and to play up the economic. But if the war was for states rights alone, it would have been fought in the courts. Removing statues doesn’t erase history. Changing the narrative does. I strongly recommend that those who want to learn more about the statues listen to the Backstory Podcast episode that explores the battle over Confederate monuments. Lastly, I’d like those who still believe the removing the monuments is erasing history to consider this: Germany lost World War II. Do you see monuments in Germany to Adolph Hitler or major World War II German generals? Does the lack of those monuments diminish at all how the history of World War II is told? How would the presence of those monuments (if they existed) be viewed by Jews living in modern Germany? Would they be viewed as a gesture that reminds them of how the German culture and country wanted to exterminate and subjugate them, and is celebrating that aspect of their history? If you think about those questions, you’ll understand why the Confederate monuments are problematic.
  • It Offends Me. Another common thread I see on Conservative feeds is something along the lines: “X offends me, I want it removed.”. This is a play on the Conservative stereotype of the “Snowflake” — someone who protests at any offense. It also plays to the notion that the statues were offensive. That, to put it politely, is a pile of 💩. Simple offense is not cause for removal. The ability to offend is protected speech, and there is no restriction to being offended by what someone says. Trust me, if that were a reason for removal most of my Conservative friends wouldn’t be on Facebook, and they would have removed me as well, and FB would be a very empty place. However, there is a distinction when the speech is being made by the government, and the purpose of that speech is to impact a protected class — that is, a class that had no choice in the aspect that creates offense. Examples would be skin color, sex, sexual orientation (which isn’t a choice), and in some cases religion, which some groups believe is transmitted by blood. The Confederate monuments aren’t being removed because they offend in a broad sense, but because they are a government celebration of discrimination against a protected class. That is something different. I’ll note you’re seeing the push for removal against statues placed by governmental organizations or in public spaces. Private expressions and private spaces are up to the owner of their space, and the customers that owner wishes to court.

More on a similar and related issue this in my next post…