Confederate Monuments Need To Come Down

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Confederate Monuments Need To Come Down

 

by Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

 

The best description we’ve heard of what drives President Trump’s presidency and personality is that he is a tribal leader. His tribe is made up of the core of those who elected him to office. It is made up of the people fiercely loyal to him despite the outrageous things he says and does. He is loyal to his tribe because it worships him.

Most candidates for public office are tribal. They play to the base that will help them get elected, but they recognize once in office they represent every citizen of their district, state, or nation. Presidents in the past have always spoken inclusively of all Americans in facing divisive challenges. But Trump doubles down on division, relishing in the turmoil it creates, and the tighter bond it fashions with this core supporters.

But his siding with neo-Nazi’s and white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, VA, to protest the removal of Confederate Army commanding Gen. Robert E. Lee extended his “tribe” to people with vile views of America. He said that he was sure there “were very fine people” marching with the neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

At the same, time he equated the actions of those who were there to protest against hate and racism with the neo-Nazis and white supremacists. His words empowered the leaders of these hate groups. They feel he has their back despite his tepid words criticizing them.

These people want an America separated into racial enclaves. They want to prevent whites from marrying anyone other than another white – as long as that white person isn’t Jewish. They see the white man as superior to white women. They want a nation in which white men subjugate all others beneath their rule.

Let’s be clear about what the leaders of the Confederate Army were fighting for – they wanted to continue the institution of slavery in America. They wanted the right to buy and sell fellow human beings, split up families, have breeding programs that treated them like livestock, whip to death or hang those who rebelled, and rape female slaves.

Let’s also be clear about what they did. Section 3 of Article 3 of the U.S. Constitution says, “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” What the Confederate leaders did was treason.

More American lives were lost in the Civil War than in any other war the U.S. has been engaged in – more than World War I and World War II combined. It is estimated that 620,000 Americans died in the Civil War with the deaths in all other wars the U.S. has been engaged in throughout its more than 240 year history at 644,000.

We also need to recognize that many of the monuments went up to honor Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and others in the late 1890s as southern whites instituted Jim Crow laws that segregated society into white only and Black only categories. They also went up during the civil rights battles of the 1960s as a symbol of white supremacy.

Today, nearly all of these monuments are an insult to the African Americans and a rallying point for neo-Nazis and white supremacists. There is no question that they should be removed from public squares and buildings. There are a few monuments that honor the service of the average Confederate solider, many of whom between the ages of 17 and 50 were conscripted into service. These monuments need to be thought of differently – they honor the men not the cause.

Trump maintains that if the statues of Lee and other Confederate leaders come down, we will then move on to erase the history of Presidents Washington and Jefferson, both of whom owned slaves. However, there is a substantial difference between them and the Confederates – Washington was our leader in winning American independence from Britain and Jefferson in writing the U.S. Constitution. The Confederate leaders sought to tear the nation apart.

America’s strength and character comes from its diversity. One of the reasons we see far fewer acts of terrorism in America committed by immigrants new to this land is that we quickly assimilate them. They aren’t forced into segregated slums and prevented from bettering the lives of their families. America is still the land of dreams for anyone seeking a better life.

We can’t accept everyone who wants to come to America; we simply don’t have the capacity to welcome all with open arms. But in Minnesota we know that immigrants are our future. We are seeing a steadily declining workforce as the Baby Boom generation retires that is not being replaced by white workers. Meanwhile, manufacturers and main street businesses are desperate for new employees. Some manufacturers are turning ever more to automation of production simply because they can’t find the workers to do the job.

In Benson we have businesses that have had to reduce their production because they don’t have the workers to make the goods to meet their orders. Swift County’s population is below 10,000 – smaller than it was in the year 1900. Where are the people going to come from who will build our population back up so that we can once again see growth and increased prosperity? It won’t be from Europe or the Scandinavian countries. It won’t be people migrating from big U.S. cities to rural America.

Our future lies with the immigrants who will come from the Middle East, Asia, Africa, China, Central America, South America and other regions. Those communities that thrive in the future will be those that are welcoming.

In his speech to American troops Monday night as he announced the necessity to increase troop numbers in Afghanistan Trump talked about the need to be a unified nation. He talked about there being no place for bigotry or racism in this nation. His words were in stark contrast to his combative press conference last week. They are in stark contrast to the policies he is implementing that show prejudice toward minorities, immigrants, and transgender Americans.

We will see if his “presidential” comments Monday night last through his speech in Arizona Tuesday.

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