Since Georgia has a law against removing Confederate monuments, arguing whether the city should take out Columbus’ stone obelisk on Broadway might be a waste of time.
That time might be better spent lobbying the legislature to change the law so local governments can decide what to do with their property.
Granted, it could be fun to act in defiance of state law, and have our own “Free State of Jones” uprising against the General Assembly, or even go full-bore “Braveheart” rebelling against Atlanta overreach. (“Go back to Fulton, and tell them there, that Muscogee’s sons and daughters are yours no more!”)
But then we’d need to design a county battle flag, and everyone would split into warring factions over that.
The law against desecrating the graven images of Confederate leaders and their lost cause was part of a 2001 state flag compromise in which the battle flag retired from the field. In that field now are bars of red and white, a pattern drawn from the first Confederate flag, the “Stars and Bars.”
Here’s what was added to the law dictating the flag’s design:
“No publicly owned monument or memorial erected, constructed, created, or maintained on the public property of this state or its agencies, departments, authorities, or instrumentalities in honor of the military service of any past or present military personnel of this state, the United States of America or the several states thereof, or the Confederate States of America or the several states thereof shall be relocated, removed, concealed, obscured, or altered in any fashion; provided, however, that appropriate measures for the preservation, protection, and interpretation of such monuments or memorials shall not be prohibited.”
Alabama this year passed a law that prohibits altering a monument or the name of a school bearing tribute to an individual, if either the monument or school name is more than 40 years old. The law doesn’t specify Confederate honors.
The Alabama attorney general is suing the mayor of Birmingham for boarding up the base of a Confederate obelisk in a public park. The mayor, who hopes to challenge the new law, claimed the obstruction would help prevent vandalism.
Maybe those who want to cover up Georgia’s Confederate stone carvings should claim they’re doing it for “preservation” and “protection.” (“It was getting wet.”)
“Protection” wouldn’t be far off the mark, in light of the mob that tore down a statue in Durham, N.C.
It would not deeply trouble me were a stone pillar no one noticed before in the Broadway median was further obscured. My Confederate ancestors have some real nice markers up in Linwood Cemetery, which is a good place to put memorials to the dead.
Rushing out to rip down every rebel monument is a mistake, though. It should be a deliberative process, not a fashion or an act of vandalism. People should consider context and origin and aesthetics and all that, and whether altering the interpretation would be more prudent than destroying the thing.
Widespread destruction is just handing ammunition to the more radical rebels who gain allies claiming it’s cultural genocide.
Granted, it’s surreal to hear people whine about erasing history while they sympathize with Charlottesville’s anti-Semitic Holocaust-denying Tiki-torch bearing neo-Nazis. But the professionals who fight such extremists advise not to give them material.
Or an audience. Had Charlottesville not been swarmed by Nazis, Klansmen and counter-protesters, we wouldn’t be where we are now.
So, let local communities handle their statuary. Let Charlottesville, and Birmingham, and New Orleans decide what to do with the monuments that belong to them. It’s their property, not ours.
Granted (again), adhering strictly to “local control” has its downside. Some local governments think it means they can do whatever the hell they want, like violate the U.S. Constitution. Sometimes the citizenry has to overthrow the local government, in the next election.
That they can do, if they don’t like how it’s handling local issues, like public monuments.
That’s their decision to make.