Circling the Facts

Lee-Circle-in-New-Orleans_640_360_80

Lee Circle, the latest target of those who would rewrite history.

The decision of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and his City Council to remove the statue of General Robert E. Lee and rename Lee Circle is troubling on a number of levels. Erasing evidence of New Orleans’s Confederate sympathy in the Civil War is a betrayal of truth, tantamount to saying it never existed. That slavery is heinous and indefensible is irrefutable fact, but is removing proof of its presence a responsible way of addressing it? I certainly support relegating the rebel flag to museums, but this self-aggrandizing political bandwagon is as shameful as it is ill-conceived.

The rewriting of history has proven to be dangerous and irresponsible time and again, especially when it sets precedents. Landrieu’s actions have already spawned criticism of the iconic statue of General Andrew Jackson and his eponymous square, the city’s most famous site. That Jackson owned slaves and, as president, enacted brutal treatment of Native Americans apparently supercedes his 1815 victory over the British and his status as the “Hero of New Orleans.” One can only wonder what’s next. I have great respect for Louis Armstrong, but how long before someone complains that an admitted wife-beater and pothead is an inappropriate choice for naming an airport? Will animal rights activists get up in arms over John James Audubon’s slaughter of thousands of innocent birds and demand changing the name of Audubon Park, not to mention the New Orleans Zoo, Insectarium, etc?

As absurd as this seems, such philistine rationale ignores the reality that most of our heroes are flawed human beings and that the mores and political climates of their times were very different from ours. It’s absurd to judge Nineteenth Century behavior by Twenty-first Century standards. Like many of America’s founding fathers, including Washington and Jefferson, Lee owned slaves, but he was far from insensitive to their plight. In 1856, he wrote, “There are few, I believe, in this enlightened age, who will not acknowledge that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil.” Yes, folks. Those are the words of General Robert E. Lee himself, the gentleman who refused command of the Union army and chose to guide the Confederacy instead,  not to defend slavery or secession (which he opposed) but because he loved his native Virginia. If Landrieu and his city council took the time to learn the facts, they might rethink before toppling Lee from his pedestal. Then again, who am I kidding? Fools indeed rush in.

Is Jackson Square the next target for New Orleans City Council?

Is Jackson Square the next target for New Orleans City Council?

6 Comments

  1. Richard Sutton
    Jan 13, 2016

    Revisionist History serves no one. Thank you for this post.

    • Jan
      Jan 14, 2016

      Excellent! What’s next, for Landrieu and his toadies, indeed! Book burning? Further contradictions of historical facts?

  2. Anne Tarzier
    Jan 13, 2016

    Once again my friend, you have beautifully articulated a serious problem that is turing PC-mania into something that seems very dangerous to me. Growing up, our text books were white and biased and our heroes were hand-selected to put the best face on some of our worst behavior as a nation. Now, via denial and a good set of blinders, it seems we are startingi that cycle over again.

    I do enjoy your blogs.

  3. Liz
    Jan 14, 2016

    No doubt about it, this is a sticky wicket. Thanks for this reasoned analysis and, as always, your love for New Orleans shines through.

  4. Scott
    Jan 22, 2016

    I am very impressed. Thank you!

  5. Scott
    Jan 23, 2016

    Some might consider that it’s people of a certain, liberal political bent that are behind the revisionist movements–individuals with standards and philosophies that are not fixed but applied selectively to whatever idea they have today that makes them feel like they’re doing something good, without considering how ridiculous it makes them look in the eyes of rational, logical, thinkers who consider more than one perspective. Thanks for bucking the trend and getting back to basics!

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