“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
— George Santayana
Recent guest columns have advocated for removal of a monument in front of the county courthouse.
But I cannot think of a better monument for Black Lives Matter to rally around to keep. They should stand at its base and chant, “Remember!” The ideas of the Confederacy were wrong and were defeated. And this monument testifies to that defeat.
Go look at the statue itself. This monument doesn’t “celebrate” white supremacy.
The monument portrays a man defeated. His posture and facial expression aren’t proud. This isn’t a monument to a proud, victorious soldier, unlike so many Civil War monuments.
The monument is full of the symbolism of defeat. The man is hatless, on foot and holds a sword broken off to within a few inches of the handle. He carries a flag, with no identifiable markings; the flag pole is broken off, useless, not raised.
A cannon lies at his feet, its mouth pointed into the ground. These are all symbols of defeat. This is no glorious depiction of a victor mounted on a horse, sword raised. This is a man, and his cause, humbled in defeat, looking to the future, seeking to speak to us today.
A Black child can be taught today at the foot of this monument that those who subjected Black Africans to slavery were defeated because right always defeats wrong. And that while some white Americans fought to keep Blacks enslaved, other white Americans — in great numbers — died to make them free.
A white child can be taught the same lessons. Removing the monument removes the starting point for honest, brave and, yes, painful but necessary conversations. Come now, and let us reason together.
History is messy. Much of it is very unpleasant. But simply erasing history is pointless and counterproductive.
Monuments to the Holocaust, the dropping of nuclear weapons on Japan, and to the many other horrors of what people can do to people, remind us of a history we don’t want to repeat.
Every school child in Germany today is required to take a field trip to a Nazi death camp to learn the shameful history of their ancestors.
I challenge Galvestonians to actually go see the monument for themselves and ask themselves what the monument itself — not all the rhetoric that surrounds it, not what others say it means — but what the monument itself says to them as thinking individuals today.
I say the monument is a testament to the death of bad ideas and a reminder that we must all reason together to check “the purity of our motives” and how much we really embrace the truths of our country’s founding documents and its ruling Constitution.
Both Black and white Americans can unite in pointing to this monument and in agreement say, “Remember this! This was wrong!”
This monument is different; Galveston should embrace it and use it to move forward.