Between the recent organized protest by white supremacists in Charlottesville, the toppling of a Confederate monument in Durham, NC, and the (government sanctioned) removal of Confederate monuments in Baltimore, the topic of Confederate monuments and their place in modern day America has become a contentious one.
Except that there's a really clear answer here: tear them all the f*** down.
1. They were erected at the most contentious moments in post-Civil War race relations
The majority of the statues and monuments dedicated to members of the former Confederate States of America were erected in the 1910s and 1920s - an auspicious time for race relations in America, as it coincides with the height of Jim Crow laws in this country. Jim Crow laws began passing in earnest with the decision in Plessy v. Fergusion (1896), which set the infamous "separate but equal" pecedent justifying racial segregation in public and private facilities. And while many of these monuments were supposedly put up to honor the generation of Confederate soldiers who had begun to die off, it's important to note WHERE these monuments were being erected: a huge amount in front of courthouses.
"So what?" you might ask. "Courthouses are just totally normal places to put monuments, definitely not an implicit reminder to African-Americans that white supremacists have control over the laws and will use them to continue to oppress and degrade them."
Here's the "so what" - the other major period of Confederate monument construction just so happened to take place after ANOTHER famous Supreme Court decision - Brown v. The Board of Education (1954). And what happened after that? A rash of SCHOOLS being named after Confederate generals and individuals. What a crazy coincidence!
2. Even Robert E. Lee opposed monuments to the Confederacy
The removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, VA, was the focal point of the recent white supremacist protest at the location, which quickly erupted in violence and chaos, leaving a member of the counter-protest dead due to the actions of a Nazi terrorist. But here's the thing: Robert E. Lee would have agreed with the counter-protestors.
In 1869 - 4 years after the end of the Civil War - Robert E. Lee wrote the following in response to a proposed Gettysburg memorial:
I think it wiser, moreover, not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.
Lee felt that monuments dedicated to one of the darkest moments of our country, when it was nearly torn in two by the strains of a war over slavery, would probably not help heal the (metaphorical) wounds of that conflict. He was not buried in his Confederate uniform, nor was he buried in a Confederate graveyard. If he had known we'd still be freaking out over these statues 150 years later, well...he'd probably be a little bummed.
3. The Confederacy was a traitorous rebellion for slavery WHAT IS COMPLICATED ABOUT THIS
Article III of the US Constitution includes the following in regards to treason:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.
To call the Confederacy treasonous is putting it lightly - they were traitors against their own country, government, and fellow citizens, and they committed this betrayal to retain the rights to own human beings as property. In every sense, the Confederacy was a disgusting, abhorrent terrifying idea. It was the exact opposite of every principle the United States was founded upon - and the simple morality of lionizing those who fought on the side of traitors and slave-owners is beyond comprehension. Even if you reject the idea that the Civil War was fought over slavery and instead adhere to the "states' rights" argument, there is no denying that the Confederacy was a government and nation formed with the clear knowledge that it would mean war with the United States.
Think of it this way - we do not build monuments for other traitors. We have no monuments made for John Wilkes Booth or Timothy McVeigh. We do have a monument for Benedict Arnold, who notoriously attempted to commit treason during the Revolutionary War...but for an earlier battle, where he displayed great bravery in defense of our new nation. But it's not as simple as that - here's the monument:
It wouldn't be right to have the name of a traitor like Arnold on a monument meant to represent honor - so the monument merely honors his leg, and doesn't include Arnold's name anywhere on the statue. All it does is pay respect to a moment in battle where Arnold's leg was broken by a bullet and a falling horse. The inscription reads:
In memory of the most brilliant soldier of the Continental army, who was desperately wounded on this spot, winning for his countrymen the decisive battle of the American Revolution, and for himself the rank of Major General.
No face. No name. No honoring his treasonous actions. The way it should be.
4. Tearing down statues dedicated to racist traitors makes the dumbest people incredibly mad
There are some benefits to tearing down these shitty statues beyond the symbolism - it also makes James Woods insanely mad, for some reason. Woods is an excellent actor who also happens to be an out-of-his-gourd nutjob on Twitter (where he famously sued someone for calling him a cocaine addict, then bragged about the appeal being dropped...due to the person dying), who thinks there is no difference between heroic American soldiers fighting to defeat fascism in World War II and traitors killing their brethren in the name of slavery.
And it led to a pleasant pasttime - the entire internet dunking on James Woods for being a dumbass:
5. Okay actually nevermind let's leave this one up
This incredible statue, honoring Confederate Lt. General (and KKK Grand Wizard) Nathan Bedford Forrest, was erected on private property in Nashville, TN, in 1998, by Jack Kershaw (who just so happened to be the attorney for James Earl Ray, the assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.). It is the best thing ever, and the only genuinely great monument dedicated to the Confederacy - because it looks like a hilarious, demented fever dream and accomplishes nothing but embarrassing anyone who holds any level of respect for Bedford Forrest or the causes he fought for.
Every Confederate statue should be torn down except this one.