WTVM Editorial 8/20/17: Controversial monuments

(WTVM) - There are few topics as incendiary right now as the move to eradicate every monument to the Confederacy and the leaders of the south in the Civil War.

But there are several sides to this issue and it is not as clear cut as some – on both sides – would have us believe.

We support a full and open discussion about each monument in question – not a blanket solution of removing them all.

It's important to understand what each monument represents. The local NAACP chapter wants a monument to Confederate dead, on Broadway in Columbus, gone - saying it represents hate.

The mayor says she is open to discussions of each monument so it can be judged in historical context.

We think that approach has a lot of merit. The mayor's clear-headed review of the Civil War monument on Broadway in Columbus erected less than two decades after the war, centers on why that particular monument still has value as a symbol of the cost paid in lives, because of bigotry and hatred.

"It was erected 14 years after the cessation of war and after Confederate soldiers (other than Jefferson Davis, Robert Lee and the Confederate Secretary of War) had been pardoned by two presidents in an effort of national reunification – to not forget, but to move forward as one nation," Mayor Tomlinson said.

Many younger Americans may never have been taught the part of civil war history about the country trying to come together on both sides. It was called reunification.

After the war, the north did not kill all southern soldiers or try them for treason.

Republican President Ulysses S. Grant supported southern reconstruction and tried to protect freed African Americans through congressional enforcement orders.

But we know that didn't work very well.

Many southerners resorted to deadly guerilla tactics, creating the Klan, and used intimidation and violence to enforce racial discrimination.

That is one legacy of the civil war we should never celebrate. And that's why we need to understand history through the context of these monuments, to understand who erected them, when and why.

Statues erected in the 1920's during that decade's embrace of the Ku Klux Klan, have no place in our society.

Tearing down statues like that makes sense when the community decides they honor division and discrimination.

But some monuments may deserve new plaques, to explain the context of their construction, or the gravity of what happened and why we need to remember, so it never happens again.

That's why we support the mayor's approach of an open discussion about whether or not any of these civil war monuments retain any value or relevance today.

General Manager Holly Steuart brings two editorials a week to WTVM. If you would like to respond to an editorial, e-mail your response to hsteuart@wtvm.com or write to:

WTVM Editorial Committee

1909 Wynnton Road

Columbus, GA 31906

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