By David Waters, The Commercial Appeal
There might be a relatively simple, reasonable and even honorable solution to our great civic war over Confederate statues.
Move them to Civil War battlefields and cemeteries where they can rest in peace and in appropriate historical context.
Some of Tennessee’s restive relics, for example, could be moved to Shiloh National Military Park, which interprets and memorializes that battle’s 23,746 casualties.
What better final resting place for Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and his massive Memphis statue than Shiloh, where he was wounded in the battle’s final shot?
What better new home for the Downtown statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who called the South’s loss at Shiloh “the turning point of our fate?”
What better location for all Confederate statues, monuments and memorials than on those horrific and hallowed grounds where “this mighty scourge of war” – as Lincoln described it – was waged?
Certainly those locations would be more appropriate than public parks and courthouse squares, where misplaced monuments promote misunderstanding, propaganda and conflict.
Nearly all Confederate monuments – including those in Memphis – were installed from 1900-20 and from 1954-68. History shows they were brazen attempts to embellish a shameful past and reestablish white authority during times of growing black resistance.
“These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said earlier this year, explaining why that city removed all of its Confederate monuments.
“The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered.”
We can’t change history, but we can learn from it by presenting it and interpreting it honestly and accurately.
That’s one of the primary missions of the National Park Service – the “preservation and interpretation of its cultural, natural, and historical resources” to connect visitors to history, “enhancing their learning and personal experiences.”
The NPS operates nine national military parks, 10 national battlefields and 14 national cemeteries. Nearly all of them are in the South.
Moving all of the roughly 700 Confederate monuments (most of them in the South) might require an act of Congress, especially given current restrictive state laws that apply.
Or it might be as simple as donating the monuments to the U.S. government, which can move its property without state permission.
We call on Gov. Bill Haslam and members of our congressional delegation to look into it so these monuments can get the public and historical scrutiny they deserve.
Today’s Confederate champions might see moving the monuments to federal property as an act of surrender. Hardly. Even Forrest saw the folly of a lost cause and the value of a United States of America.
“Civil war, such as you have just passed through, naturally engenders feelings of animosity, hatred, and revenge,” Forrest said in his farewell address to his troops on May 9, 1865.
“It is our duty to divest ourselves of all such feelings; and as far as it is in our power to do so, to cultivate friendly feelings toward those with whom we have so long contended, and heretofore so widely, but honestly, differed.”
It’s now our duty to divest ourselves of public monuments that engender feelings of animosity, hatred and revenge toward our fellow Americans.
You can contact Gov. Bill Haslam at email@example.com or 615-741-2001;
Sen. Bob Corker at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-756-2757; and Sen. Lamar Alexander at email@example.com or 901-544-4224.