They Can’t Kill Us All.

An old friend from my time in the Army posted some drivel this morning from Infowars, claiming somehow that counterprotesters in Charlottesville started the violence over the weekend. It led to yet another tired argument about the right to protest and how the urge on the American Left to suppress unwanted speech is just like the Nazi party. Of course.

“Keep in mind, this all came about because somebody thought it was a good idea to move a statue,” he said. “Senseless.”

No. Not senseless. For all the talk about their value as “history,” most of these monuments have a historical context tied to marking newly-recovered Klan territory and official terrorization of black people. But we’re seeing increasing protest activity at these events because the alt-right has decided that it’s as good a staging ground as any for the herrenvolk to red-lace up their Doc Martens for a boot party. Any publicity is good publicity when the goal is chaos, the better for a “law-and-order” president to stop.

We are talking about the resurgence of violence on the far right today in the wake of a white supremacist horror movie murder-by-Camaro that left one woman dead and 19 injured. But the word resurgence doesn’t quite fit. Violence on the far right has been steady for almost 20 years, to a degree that the FBI has long held white supremacist violence as the single most important threat to the lives of law enforcement officers.

Monuments will keep coming down, and that includes Georgia. At a peace vigil in Decatur last night, a petition began circulating to take down the Confederate obelisk in the middle of the old DeKalb courthouse square. I’ve been ruminating over a piece about it for months now, and spent some time looking into its history. The DeKalb History Center is in the old courthouse, and they’ve been looking at what it might take to move it inside the building or to surround it with additional historical markers placing it in context. (Fun fact: the neo-Confederates of DeKalb like Tom Owens like to haunt the halls of the history center.)

The most remarkable thing I can say about the obelisk is that there really isn’t much history to it at all. Its anodyne text matches a relatively inoffensive design. No valiant warriors astride chargers grace a pedestal. One would have to actually read it to even know what it’s for — I sincerely doubt most people visiting the square are aware it’s even there. 

Of course the politics of the day in 1906, when the obelisk would have been up for discussion, centered on race. The former publisher of the Atlanta Journal and the editor of the Atlanta Constitution were running against one another on the platform of who hated black people more. A three day race riot of white Atlantans killing black people in the street had been spurred by these papers’ questionable reporting of the rape of white women by black men. Confederate monuments were popping up all over the south at that point, spurred by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and their Klan-linked push to move monuments from cemeteries to town squares and to civilize the concepts of white supremacy and Jim Crow in a post-reconstruction South.

But the monument itself? Eh. The monument rose in April 1908, six months after the original from Butler Marble and Granite Company in Marietta fell during construction and smashed to pieces, according to contemporary reports from the Atlanta Constitution. The monument cost $2000 (roughly $50,000 today), raised from a thousand donors around the county. Rebecca Candler unveiled the obelisk as Mary Gay, noted author of the Lost Cause apologia “Life in Dixie during the War,” stood in her widow’s weeds to see her inscription carved into it. Candler was the youngest daughter of Charles Murphy Candler, a prominent Decatur politician and industrialist who helped found Agnes Scott College. The comments of the day were made by Hooper Alexander, a state representative and future U.S. Attorney for the district who later earned repute for fighting against “negro peonage,” the practice of enslaving black laborers through debt. No record of his remarks exists. Confederate Gen. Clement Evans and the cadet corps from the Donald Fraser School for Boys were present, according to the reports of the day.

This is the most thorough accounting of the monument I can craft, and there are shopping mall openings with more historical meaning than this.

The memorials are hard to defend on their merits as history. (I can, and have, and continue to defend the Stone Mountain carving on the basis of art.) The obelisk itself contributes little to either. But I sense no overwhelming public interest in incurring the cost of moving or destroying it. It’s simply too bland for anyone to care about. Surrounding it with a display describing the ills of slavery and a true accounting of the history of DeKalb County in the war is probably easier for all concerned. Of course, reasonable people might disagree and see it removed. And unreasonable people might also disagree and see another chance to run over antifa protesters.

We’re lucky. Other communities have far more obnoxious memorials, and will want to remove them. That poses a dilemma after the violence of this weekend. The far right intends to offer the heckler’s veto against the removal of Jim Crow-era trash from our town squares. The threat of a thousand based citronazis waving tiki torches may dissuade some communities from doing the right thing.

For that, I offer a suggestion I gleefully steal from my girlfriend Sara. Do it all at once. Designate a day next year — every year — for city councils and county commissions to arrange for their Confederate monuments to be removed. Have all the construction cranes and flatbeds fan out on the same day, all over the country. Perhaps we can use Heather Heyer’s birthday, as a memorial to a victim of anti-American violence. Or perhaps the Fourth of July. Instead of having white supremacist protesters move from city to city, they’ll have to pick and choose where to protest, spreading them out. Perhaps that will lower the security costs and the risk of violence for any given city, lowering the political resistance in the council chambers of America.

Right now, the alt-right can mass. But they can’t kill us all, not if we’re acting in unison.

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Benevolus
Benevolus

Thank you George. Thoughtful and eloquent as always.
I don’t really do twitter but this looks like a potential meme (or whatever it’s called there): #citronazis

Noway2016
Noway2016

I huess the Grievance Industry better get started on Mount Rushmore next, huh? How bout getting a little hammer and chisel and getting started tap, tap , tapping on the Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument in DC? And most importantly, don’t be spending them nickels and quarters, neither! What ever happened to that sainted Liberal Tolerance? To quote the now-departed paragon of virtue, Rodney King, “can’t we all just get along?!”

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

Jefferson and Washington never committed treason against the United States and took up arms against her in order to continue the enslavement of an entire race of people. Please don’t insult Washington, Jefferson, or our collective intelligence by comparing them to Robert E. Lee.

Also, Lee was a crap tactician that lost the war for the South by trying to engage in a conventional offensive campaign against an industrialized North. Losers shouldn’t get statues…

George Chidi
George Chidi

One: I suspect you don’t actually care about tolerance, except to the degree that it applies to you. The concept exists as something to use as a brickbat on liberals for you. Two, there’s a qualitative difference between the Jefferson memorials or depictions of Washington and these memorials. Most Confederate memorials on the squares of courthouses across the south were put there by the United Daughters of the Confederacy with the explicit purpose of reinforcing white supremacy and intimidating black citizens while Jim Crow grew. Those statues were generally put there deliberately to help terrorize black people. The Jefferson memorials… Read more »

Noway2016
Noway2016

Sure, George. You keep stiring that pot. The only attention those awful-wawful statues have gotten in the last hunded years has been from mold, lichens and pigeons!! That is until the Social Justice Warriors began their latest campaigns!! Nice job!

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

Because a white dude like Noway is the guy to ask about how minorities feel about having to drive past a giant statue of Robert E. Lee while on their way to Stonewall Jackson Elementary School.

Noway2016
Noway2016

That’s right, Andrew! Hey, aren’t you late to your meeting to offer pro bono legal advice to the school looking to change their name because their current name is “Lynch”?! Better get going!

bethebalance
bethebalance

The statues may not have gotten overt and blatant attention, but there is a lot of history that’s happened in those hundred years. And that arc of history is coming around to the point where many ppl can now somewhat effectively- albeit not apparently entirely safely- now address the original purposes for those statues.

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

I hadn’t previously commented because opinion can’t be concisely explained in a few sentences. Suffice it to say I think that monument removal or name changes should be approached on a case by case basis, and that I generally favor memorial removal or name changes if they were established to memorialize the defense of slavery or were symbolize racial supremacy or oppression.
.
That said, Stacy Abrams didn’t endear herself to me by not distancing herself from supporters shouting down Stacey Evans at Netroors, then tweeting Tuesday the Stone Mountain carving should be obliterated.

Benevolus
Benevolus

That’s pretty much how I feel too. I am loathe to potentially differ with civil rights heroes I admire, but I am not sure every one of these monuments is about hate. I spent a little time in Andersonville, GA recently (camped there while visiting Jimmy Carter’s church), and that whole little town is built around it’s Civil War history. I’m sure there are some raging rednecks there but we should approach this whole issue with care.

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

Is this the part where I point out the Georgia flag is based on the Stars and Bars?

Ellynn
Ellynn

Just had to make us all re-live the 1998-2003 flag war years didncha? Unless someone has vexillologist in their job title or field of study, can we stop baiting the bears please? There are bigger things to pick each other part over.

Noway2016
Noway2016

You got that right. Who knew deteriorating concrete and marble markers four generations removed, no less, were such a menace?!

Ellynn
Ellynn

I didn’t say a word about monuments. I was mentioning the current flag. Also to correct you, most of those deteriorating markers are under 90 years old, which puts them in your Grandpas generation or your fathers, a few in ours. While your off being a good bear and Googling the history behind the monuments in your backyard, look up vexillology too. SMH

bethebalance
bethebalance

Have any GA statewide or federally elected officials made any statements on Charlottesville yet? It seems like party leadership is stunningly MIA.

Ellynn
bethebalance
bethebalance

Thanks for the link, Ellynn.

augusta52
augusta52

Yes Andrew, we know just how morally superior the North is and always has been. No racists up there, no attempts up there ever at secession. Slavery was never legal in any of the North, right?

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

I never said anything about the North (other than mentioning their military superiority to the Confederacy). As the Drive-By Truckers so eloquently stated: “Racism is a worldwide problem, and it’s been like that since the beginning of recorded history and it ain’t just white and black, but thanks to George Wallace, it’s always a little more convenient to play it with a Southern accent. … These statues were, by and large, erected to re-write the history of the Civil War and frame its origins as some noble, chivalrous struggle for “state’s rights.” This, of course, ignores the fact that the… Read more »

augusta52
augusta52

Andrew, Lee went with the South because his home state did. The state was divided on the question but sided with the South.

There is a university with his name in Lexington, Virginia, called Washington and Lee. Shall we rename that? Maybe Washington and Leigh? I suppose the Episcopal Church next to that campus should be renamed too (no “Robert E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church”?) Thena gain, with all the controversies in the Episcopal Church these days (the loss of half its membership since the 1960s), maybe they should save that for another day?

Ellynn
Ellynn

Historically that is a different kettle of contextual fish. It’s not named after Lee because some people in 1890-1930 wanted to promote the Klan, Jim Crow, ect – it’s was renamed in 1870-71 after Lee’s death because 1) he served as the president of the college for the last 5 years of his life and 2.) He was the father-in law of George Washington Parke Custis, Martha’s’ grandson, builder of Arlington House, and a direct heir and ward of George Washington who founded the PRIVATE college. Lee’s father, Revolutionary war general Henry Lee III (fought at Augusta even) gave Washington’s… Read more »

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

^^^ This.

Also, W&L is a private college, so they can call themselves Fart Mountain A&M for all I care. I don’t want public spaces named after traitors, especially when the name change was part of Jim Crow.

Noway2016
Noway2016

And when, pray tell, has enough time sufficiently passed from these “Statue Transgressions” that we can move forward with our collective lives?! Hmmmm? According to Chidi and Drew, those statues were put up in the early 1900’s. Little Sis says round about 75 years back. It is literally insane to continue to bring up one hundred year old histories and reopen old wounds and continually pick at scabs. Healing never, ever will occur. My Irish ancestors likely got hugely discriminated against by reading “irish need not apply” signs. But I don’t hear them using it as a battle cry to… Read more »

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

I would say we can “move forward with our collective lives” when we’ve eradicated systemic racism and African-Americans are no longer disproportionately imprisoned, subject to police violence, or discriminated against due to the color of their skin. Maybe when we’ve stomped out the last vestiges of Jim Crow and moved in a society that truly embraces the notion that all men are created equal can we then “move on with our collective lives.” … While you think this is merely “picking scabs,” for the black community, the wounds of slavery and Jim Crow still haven’t scabbed over to begin with.… Read more »

Ellynn
Ellynn

Again… Context. A former President of Notre Dame was Fr. Crosby, who was the Chaplin of the New York Irish Brigade during the Civil War, known as the Fighting Irish. (Ironically he has a statue on the grounds of Gettysburg) At the time he was president until the 1920’s, the majority of the student body and the football players were Irish Catholic. It is one of the many theories on how Notre Dame got its name. St Patrick is the patron Saint of Ireland. So if you’re of Irish Catholic descent WHY would you want to rename the Norte Dame… Read more »

bethebalance
bethebalance

There is a vast well of misunderstanding because there is the tendency to think: well, I’m not a racist, and the past is past, therefore racism is past. But that’s actually an insolated view, and racism still exists in many forms, and has continued to exist, for our presently relevant purpose, since the founding of America. And since a large segment of ppl still experience it, and want to actually heal the past And the present, it just requires empathy to say: well, just because it’s an issue of the past for me doesn’t mean it’s an issue of the… Read more »

Sally Forth
Sally Forth

When do we start burning the books? China’s cultural revolution, Marxism and communism, and all radical leftist movements start with tearing down statues as a means of exerting power over the people. From there the next step is book burning, destroy history. If leftists can discredit a nation’s history, they can then ignore laws and systems put in place for that nation to function. Burning books has to be next on the list for the alt-left.

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

Only people I’ve ever known to burn books were on the far right, so save your unrighteous indignation before you become some caricature

Sally Forth
Sally Forth

Whadaya mean? I AM a caricature! 🙂 I was referring to China’s Communist Mao Zedong, Karl Marx Communism, Vladimir Lenin’s Bolsheviks, Fidel Castro’s Cuba, Venezuela’s Socialist Maduro regime, etc.etc.etc. of the far left coups through history.

bethebalance
bethebalance

Books are fundamentally different kinds of art, where you need to search them out to engage them. Statues in front of courthouses, or in public squares, are different- their presence is meant to be known and seen.

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

The “history” you’re referencing is an entire region seceding from the rest of the country because a handful of wealthy individuals wanted to continue subjugating an entire race. That region then proceeded to get its teeth kicked in. Sore losers that they were, they then engaged in decades of codified discrimination and violent oppression of American citizens including lynchings, church bombings, arson, and assassination. But hey, I guess that’s a “history” worth protecting. … Before anyone starts thinking I’m some carpetbagging Yankee, my family has been living in the South, uninterrupted, since Jamestown. I’ve got ancestors that owned slaves and… Read more »

Noway2016
Noway2016

You could… But they’ve been gone for decades, but thanks for your display of moral superiority! Those alive today had not one scintilla of anything to do with the the erecting of those monuments! Something springs to mind about “The sins of the father not being revisited on the son”. But hellfire, Eunice, the defeats the whole purpose of that newfangled Narrative!!! Carry on, Andrew, carru on!

Benevolus
Benevolus

Is “moral superiority” supposed to be some kind of insult? Is there not a definitive morally superior position on this issue?
Morally superior position- oppose slavery, white supremacy, government sanctioned honoring of same
Morally deficient position- trying to justify slavery, white supremacy, defending the honoring of same.

We have to face the facts. We have a fascist racist for president. He probably doesn’t see himself that way but his behavior cannot be denied. This is a big moment for America.

bethebalance
bethebalance

I don’t think a younger generation will suffer, or are suffering, for the sins of their parents or grandparents or what have you, just bc the present generation wants to heal the past. Healing is not suffering. Rather, the children have an opportunity to set right, possible even atone, for the sins of previous generations. That’s a holy privilege, not a burden.

Noway2016
Noway2016

And speaking of “sore losers”, damn, Drew, you and your compadres are the very personification of that since the Trumpster mopped the floor eith The Peddler back in November! Sheeesh!

bethebalance
bethebalance

Why should it matter if you were a Northerner? I can say from personal experience that there does remain a good chunk of negative pre-judgment of ppl, both in the North and the South, regarding each other. That judgment mostly dissipates with interactions, bc it turns out, stereotypes are pretty awful and useless.

Benevolus
Benevolus

When the government starts burning books I’ll resist that right alongside you.
Well, maybe a few feet away from you.

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

As someone who spent 12 years in Richmond Va and lived on Monument Ave…I’ve been torn on this one. Yes I understand what those statues represent to different people, but they are truly beautiful works of art, and Monument Ave just wouldnt be the same. Hopefully if they are taken down, they are replaced with works of art as majestic that everyone can view and enjoy.

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

I’m sure there’s an untold number of museums willing to host them.

Ellynn
Ellynn

The Lee statue was commissioned in 1875, and was completed in 1890. It’s saving grace is Lee’s older brother, who lived and raised his family in Richmond and his nephew Fitzhugh Lee was the governor of Virginia at the time it was finished. Lots of local history. The Maury Monument is not a Confederate memorial. Although he was in charge of what could be called the Confederate coast guard, he is considered the founder of modern day atmospheric theory, oceanography and meteorology. He was the first superintendent of the United States Naval Observatory. He has dozens of navy and weather… Read more »

augusta52
augusta52

Someone check the water Andrew is drinking—Fart University—really? As for secession, the first folks to attempt it was not the evil, wicked South, but New England in 1803, upset about the Louisiana Purchase. And it was not always clear before the civil war whether secession was unlawful. As economist Walter Williams pointed out in a June column “Were Confederate Generals Traitors?”, there was an attempt at the Constitutional Convention to allow the federal government to suppress a seceding state, but James Madison, father of the Constitution, rejected it. Heck, even today, some in California (appropriately, the Land of Fruits and… Read more »

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

I believe the institution of higher education you’re referring to is “Fart Mountain A&M.” … New England’s secession movement in 1803 had to do with the cost of the Louisiana Purchase and a fear among northeastern states that westward expansion would diminish their influence. Similarly, the Hartford Convention of 1814 was formed out of opposition to the ongoing costs of the War of 1812, Democratic-Republican trade policies, and the fear that states like Connecticut would lose their claims to western lands. … Southern Secession, on the other hand, was motivated by a desire to preserve the institution of slavery. As… Read more »