Over the weekend the normally intelligent National Review published a piece from Hudson Institute Fellow Arthur Herman. Titled, “Confederate Statues Honor Timeless Virtues — Let Them Stay” — it’s every bit the hot, steaming mess that it sounds.
In his rambling defense of southern revisionism, Herman made the striking claim that African Americans were better off under segregation than under “liberalism”
In his own words:
It’s true that Lee failed. His dream of a new South descended into Jim Crow after he died. This is in fact the best argument that those who want these statues gone can make: that the “reconciliation” between North and South was done on the backs of blacks, and that the end of Reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow were the price America paid to have peace in the aftermath of civil war. From a historical point of view, it’s almost convincing, even though what American blacks suffered under segregation was nothing compared to what liberalism has inflicted on them since the 1950s, as it destroyed their families, their schools, and their young men and women’s lives through drugs and guns and the gangster-rap culture “lifestyle,” which is really a death style.
Now, I’m not a policy expert, but I don’t think Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society abetted thousands of lynchings.
The piece basically devolved from there.
In addition to his segregation remarks, Herman insisted that the removal of Lee was little more than liberals looking to “score points” and that “in the final analysis, they are monuments to timeless virtues, not to individuals.” It is interesting how so many southern states have chosen to memorialize white supremacists and traitors to highlight those “virtues” rather than say the slaves who suffered under their oppression.
There was also this nugget, of Lost Cause claptrap.
Lee also worked for reconciliation between black and white, in hopes that together they could build a new South now that the slaveholding version was gone forever.
Now, I won’t dispute that this might be true, but it certainly wasn’t a position Lee came to happily, as the Associated Press reported, Lee was in fact a cruel slave master, who regularly broke up the families of his workers.
Documents show Lee was cruel to his slaves and encouraged his overseers to severely beat slaves captured after trying to escape. Historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor said in a 2008 American Heritage article that Lee was angry about the slaves’ demands for freedom and “resorted to increasingly harsh measures to maintain control,” breaking up most slave families. One slave at Arlington, Pryor noted, called Lee, “the worst man I ever see.”
Despite being claiming to be a “historian,” this information somehow didn’t make it into Herman’s piece. In the miasma, he also found time to accuse NY governor Andrew Cuomo of hating America and call out the “totalitarian left.”
As I have previously written, there is no virtue in leading a white supremacist rebellion against your own country. Lee and his friends were traitors — as were the soldiers in their army. Commemorating their lives with monuments and tributes is an insult to the soldiers who fought to save the United States from their sedition.
I could have ended this rant right here ^ — however, I would be remiss if I didn’t address one last matter.
To support his position, Herman invoked the legacy of his great-great-grandfather who fought for the Union and was wounded during the Battle of Stone’s River.
This is a personal issue for me. My great-great-grandfather fought for the Union in that war and was severely wounded at the Battle of Stone’s River. (I still have the rebel Minié ball the medics pulled out of his knee.) But I know that neither he nor the men he served with in his Wisconsin regiment would want, 150 years later, to change those parks’ names
Now, I’m guessing Mr. Herman probably never knew his great-great-grandfather, but with all fucking due respect, I think the safer assumption is that he wouldn’t want parks and monuments named for the people who shot him, killed scores of his friends and tried to destroy his country.
But maybe I’m just a crazy liberal who hates America.
[image via screengrab]