As monuments to supremacism come tumbling down around the world, there’s no clear plan yet for what to do with the ones here in the U.S.
There’s an understandable impulse to destroy these monuments, many of which are statues that range from slavers and Confederates like Robert E. Lee to expansionists and white supremacists like Theodore Roosevelt. Some, for now, have been placed out of sight, out of mind.
These monuments have the power to incite our emotions. They derive this power from their symbolism. Confederate monuments represent the Lost Cause — the ideology that says the cause of the Confederate states during the Civil War was a just and heroic one — and many people claim this is a substantial part of their personal family heritage. As such, they decry the crusade to remove these monuments because they feel this constitutes the erasure of American history.
There is a way we can strip these monuments of their power while we preserve their true history, ugly though that history may be. Their history is not only the Lost Cause, a belief based on lies instilled in these monuments by their makers. Their history is when and why these monuments were installed: between 1880 and 1930 monuments were erected across the South with the intention of “justifying segregation and relegating African Americans to second-class status,” according to Civil War historian Kevin Levin.
Alexander Stephens (1859)/ Image via Public Domain
On Sunday, May 21, 1865, the president and vice president of the Confederate States of America bade each other farewell. The latter would recall of the former, “he seemed more affected than I had ever seen him. He said nothing but good-bye, and gave my hand a cordial squeeze; his tone evinced deep feeling and emotion.”
It would be the last time rebel leaders Alexander Stephens and Jefferson Davis would shake hands.
Stephens had been arrested ten days prior at his estate in Crawfordville, GA — the main house of which he ironically named Liberty Hall — on charges of treason. He had woke that day, May 11, “a most beautiful and charming morning,” ate breakfast and wrote letters, and learned Union cavalry had descended on the rustic Georgia town to apprehend him. After a short time packing necessities, and no time to send word to his family, he boarded a Union train bound for Washington D.C.
It wasn’t until nine days later, while afloat off the coast of Virginia, that he learned his destination had been rerouted to Boston.
“I knew then that Fort Warren was to be my place of imprisonment.”
It’s been difficult, as of late, for Boston to maintain its distinction as one of the foremost liberal, progressive, tolerant, and accepting cities in the country.
Twice this year the city’s solemn Holocaust Memorial was shattered by projectiles hurled by locals, the first in June by a Roxbury man, the second on Monday by a Malden 17-year-old. Prior, since its dedication in 1995, it had stood unscathed.
Boston was called the most racist city by SNL cast member Michael Che. Baseball player Adam Jones was subjected to racial slurs in the outfield of Fenway Park.
On a fairly regular basis, it seems, incidents and encounters such as these teem to the surface, tearing the scar of racism before it’s ever been fully healed — if it ever can be. And almost every time Boston residents recall about its most infamous race-related moment: busing.
Heirloom portrait of Robert E. Lee sitting in my closet.
One fond memory of a trip to Gettysburg National Park consisted of my siblings, my cousins, and myself participating in a juvenile reenactment of the battle, complete with replica hats, jackets, and a discussion of soldierly life.
The instillment of the Civil War era in my life made it so the very idea of the conflict edged unassumingly along the spectrum of familiarity to complacency; to me Lee was always more of a character in a dramatic historical play, more protagonist than antagonist.
Consequently, I never considered the differing perspectives various people might have of the portrait of Robert E. Lee that hung in my childhood home, stoically placed as if the general himself were keeping watch over us.
I never thought twice about asking my parents for the portrait when they moved out of their house and downsized to a condo lacking abundant of wall space for Lee to reside.
On Friday, July 7, Massachusetts legislators came to a compromise on a $40.2 billion state budget that’s now on the desk of Governor Charlie Baker.
Though the budget slices government spending in the range of $400 million to $500 million, it’s not without its casualties. One such fatality has been touted as a potential boon for the western portion of the Commonwealth, which continues to feel the sting of the state government’s home court advantage in easterly Boston. That is to say, the budget compromise seems to favor Eastern Mass. at the expense of Western Mass.
“This budget is not without pain,” Senate Ways and Means chair Karen Spilka, Democrat, told the AP. “It is clear that the state is facing a shortfall in revenue that will have an impact on real people’s lives.”
Added Democratic Senate President Stan Rosenberg, it’s “the harshest state budget since the last recession.”
For residents of Western Mass. — the region of the state composed of Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, and parts of Worcester Counties — the budget represents another instance of playing second fiddle to Greater Boston, this time though in the realm of transportation.
In today’s United States, racial and socioeconomic tensions are amplified by the rapidity of Internet sharing. The senseless death of a young minority by the member of an historically oppressive race can ignite the emotions of Americans from one corner of the country to the other in a matter of minutes, like a spark in a tinderbox on a bed of kindling.
Cities are attempting to revise the mindsets of those who harbor racist sympathies and to promote race equality by taking aim at the tangible symbols that evoke sentiments of inequality.
In New Orleans, for example, “adversaries marched in a second-line parade to the traffic circle where [Confederate General Robert E.] Lee’s statue stands — centurion-like, stationed above the treeline atop a white stone pedestal — to protest the monument’s place in the circle and to bury Lee’s place in history, which some revere and others revile.”
The basic argument against monuments like Lee’s in New Orleans is that Lee was the leader of the Confederate Army which fought and killed on behalf of a loose band of belligerent, secessionist states that advocated for the institution of slavery — i.e., Lee is one of the de facto faces of slavery in America and is undeserving of celebratory recognition.
Conversely, there are those who think preserving the legacy of Confederate soldiers who laid down their lives for a certain belief is something of a civic and moral obligation. Individually those rebels are ancestors; collectively they comprise a regional heritage.
I happen to think that when it comes to contentious memorials such as those of notorious Confederates, they should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
When it comes to Lee, I happen to think he should be lauded. Jefferson Davis, no thank you.
In roughly one year’s time, office-seeking residents will formulate and put into motion campaigns with the admirable hope of unseating Marty Walsh as Mayor of Boston.
I’m writing to you today to urge you to toss your hat into the municipal ring.
You probably don’t remember me and that’s okay. We’ve chatted a handful of times on city issues when I was a news reporter. It was clear to me then that you had the makings of a true political luminary, one who sought public servitude to increase the quality of life for all Bostonians — not just to reinforce the foundation of a formidable career as a politician.
Ayanna Prssley/ Image via City of Boston
It’s clearly not political aspirations that fuel the fire of your civic motivations. It’s doing good and being good. And that’s certainly lacking in the executive office of City Hall.
On Tuesday, April 5, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont won the Wisconsin Democratic primary over fellow presidential contender Hillary Clinton, former New York senator and secretary of state, by a margin of 56.6% to 43.1%.
Wisconsin’s primary could prove pivotal for Senator Sanders as he tries to oust Clinton, considered by many to be the Democratic front-runner. It was pivotal, too, for the young Massachusetts senator in 1960, John F. Kennedy, who carried the state in unlikely fashion and went on to triumph over rival Lyndon B. Johnson, the Senate Majority Leader from Texas, and assume the presidency thereby establishing a new era of American politics and enshrining the former as the insignia of unrealized political potential.
President Kennedy (left) & Vice President Johnson (center)/ Image via John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum [public domain]
For better or for worse, I’m often able to discern what certain people’s strengths and weaknesses are, how to read their expressions and body language, why they act certain ways in certain situations, and even sometimes their thought process in particular scenarios.
In 2013 I employed this capability to the race to succeed Mayor Tom Menino who had announced in March of that year that he would not seek to prolong his tenure as the longest serving mayor in the history of Boston. Leveraging my then-embryonic role as a news writer covering my first election of any kind, I was able to compile an informative foundation upon which I built my unprejudiced rationale for my candidate of choice.
I’ll freely admit that I cast my ballot for the incumbent Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh.
One week removed from the 2016 Massachusetts primary, I regret it wholeheartedly.