What Then, Is the Answer?

During these last 47 years in solitary confinement, I’ve been bingeing on some movies. I rarely watch live TV so pretty much everything is streaming.

I’ve been through The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, The Hunger Games (a little too much like current events), Harry Potter, and I’m now on to Star Trek. This time I tried not to laugh at Amazing Grace on the bagpipes at Spock’s funeral.

At the end of Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, Hermione and Harry have this exchange.

Hermione: Everything is going to change now, isn’t it?

Harry: …Yes.

This appears to be apocryphal and told only in the film version. I could not find it in the sacred text.

At least I couldn’t find it with a quick scan. I need to read the Harry Potter books again, but the hobbits just got to Brandybuck. It will be a while.

After this week, hell, after this year, it fits doesn’t it?

With the Coronavirus I’ve been more worried about being nauseated by the phrase “new normal” than I have of contracting the virus.

It’s been a difficult week. Like I said yesterday, I don’t know how to fix things. Apparently, I don’t need to.

Richmond City has lifted the curfew.

And yesterday, Governor Northam’s office announced the statue of Robert E. Lee will be removed from Richmond’s famed Monument Avenue.

We got to sunshine and lollipops a lot faster than I thought.

This was coming. It’s been building for years. And this year during the General Assembly Session legislation was passed to allow cities to determine what to do with war memorials.

I wrote about the memorials a couple of years ago. I said that I didn’t think they should come down. I still don’t.

But, I’m willing to accept the inevitable. I’m also willing to acknowledge that moving them to a museum may in the end be a less costly decision than having to continually clean up the vandalism.

I first saw the monuments when I was twelve years old. Each year, the seventh-grade classes from my county would take the “Richmond Trip.” We would visit Appomattox, Richmond, Jamestown, Williamsburg, and stop by Monticello on the way home.

I’ve talked before about studying Virginia history. We would alternate studying Virginia history one year and U.S. history the next.

Virginia history would start at Jamestown and by late May we would be up to the Civil War.

U.S. history would start at Jamestown and by late May we would be up to the Civil War.

When I took U.S. History in college I was confused when we started in Massachusetts.

I think perhaps this is one of the reasons I have a fascination with early 20th Century history. I just never really studied it in school.

I started school the first year that schools were schools were desegregated in my home county. I realize now that, to the adults, particularly my unmarried somewhat elderly (in my memory) first grade teacher, this was a big deal.

I have very few memories of first grade. The ones I do are horrifying. Including the day when the teacher said, and I swear I am not making this up:

“I can read Little Black Sambo to you today because Robert isn’t here.”

You do the math.

I tell you this, in part, to share my journey. As a young adult I would have said things like “of course I’m not racist.” But living and working in Washington, DC and attending a church that really struggled, and I do mean struggled with what it meant to be racially reconciled, there were several times when I just stopped and said “oh….”

I could give you the examples of things I’ve learned over the years, but that seems like it would be too much like white-splaining.

Let’s just say that I’ve come a long way and acknowledge that I have a long way to go.

Just recently a friend helped me gain a different perspective on Black Lives Matter.

It’s like, if you say “Save the Rainforest” it’s not like you hate all the other forests.

While you will never convince me that the message of George Floyd wasn’t lost in the rioting, it has been encouraging to see the demonstrations begin to take on a more peaceful tone.

Removing the monuments will meet with resistance. But not from me. Not any longer.

I have to pick my battles but, even though Ancestry.com tells me that Marse Robert was a distant cousin, this can’t be one of them.

Truth is, I was never quite sure why we had Jeff Davis on a Richmond Avenue anyway. He wasn’t a Virginian, and wasn’t exactly a hero. But that probably goes to the mindset of the day when the statues were initially built.

The characters of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson have been, and will continue to be, debated for ages. It would be folly to remove them from the history books as well as from the Avenue.

Then there’s Matthew Maury. It is likely that his statue will also be removed. One might some consideration should be given to his career and contributions as an oceanographer, but he also served the Confederacy and nobody’s going to read the rest of his history.

Monument Avenue will look different for a while. I’m sure that in the near future the only statute that will remain will be of Arthur Ashe beating away children with a tennis racquet.

I did not come to his position easily. And it is still more a matter of acceptance than agreement.

But it is where we are.

Let’s be clear though, removing the statutes isn’t going to fix anything other than saving the budget for cleaning off the spray paint.

Then again, as I was writing this, I read this fundraising email statement from Senator Amanda Chase who wants to be Governor:

“Let me be clear – Ralph’s surrender to the mob will only further embolden the far-left socialist Democrats pushing to remake our society. If the Lee Monument is removed against the tide of popular opinion, 57% of the state is opposed to state removal, the leftists will NOT STOP until white people are erased from history! The line must be drawn here and NOW!”

Words fail me. Printable ones at least. It’s enough to make me want to go help Cousin Bob pack his bags.

Still before I go…speaking of desegregation…

It would be egregious to remove the Confederate statues from Monument Avenue while allowing the statue of Harry Flood Byrd to remain on the grounds of the Virginia Capitol. Byrd was the leader of Massive Resistance which was designed to prevent the desegregation of schools. Apparently, there was a budget provision to add an interpretive sign to the statue noting Byrd’s leadership of that effort.

I’m not sure why this isn’t the more offensive statue. So, as long as we’ve got the statue-moving truck in town…

Removing the statues will not end racism. Racism existed for centuries before the Civil War and will exist for centuries after the statutes are removed.

Some 300 years into the future, the Klingon Ambassador said “there shall be no peace as long as Kirk lives.”

We still have work to do.


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