Friday, September 22, 2017

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Regarding “Charlottesville, Mahwah and the Worst Version of Ourselves” (August 17, 2017), in seeking to cast those opposed to glorifying the treason and racism of the Confederacy in a negative light for some reason, Ms. Kratz makes a number of false assertions. I’m not sure where she came up with her “200 years” figure but it doesn’t fit into this discussion. The history of African slavery in what is now the USA goes back 400 years. The importation of African slaves ended 210 years ago, as contemplated in the Constitution. The Confederacy surrendered, ending the Civil War 152 years ago. The statues that Ms. Kratz claims are “part of American history” were mostly erected during the post-Reconstruction Jim Crow era as a way for white society to express their continued dominance over local black populations. The two statues in Charlottesville that the neo-Nazis and their compatriots were supposedly rallying in support of were erected in the 1920s, less than 100 years ago, to honor Lee and Jackson. They embody no independent historical value, apart from trying to sanitize the history of the men depicted, men who rebelled against the country they had sworn to defend. Indeed, in erecting these monuments to glorify the traitors to our country who waged war in support of the racist abomination of slavery, it is the Jim Crow era white populations that attempted to rewrite history.

Ms. Kratz employs the same “slippery slope” argument that President Trump articulated in his third statement on Charlottesville, when he insisted that there were “very fine people” standing among the torch-wielding neo-Nazis who were chanting “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” Despite Ms. Kratz ‘s rhetorical flourish, no one is arguing to “dismantle the battlefield memorials.” Why does it seem to be so hard for some people in this discussion to distinguish between monuments that glorify and historical sites or museums that serve to teach and remind. Germany doesn’t have statues honoring leaders of the Third Reich—and we Jews would likely object if they did—but the actual camps serve a historical value without glorifying the evil that was carried out there. Removing monuments that glorify the Confederacy doesn’t rewrite or erase history, nor does it create the “safe spaces” that Ms. Kratz claims to worry about, while denigrating the very idea.

Marc Melzer