Tonight the monument to Confederate General Beauregard is being taken down in New Orleans. If history is written by the victors, the victors in 2017 look very different from the victors in 1865. Confederates lost the war, but coming home they were honored by their fellow Southerners. Often the survivors of the two opposing sides met in friendly reunions, much like World War II American veterans who return on friendly terms to Europe or the Pacific islands where they fought. Many Vietnam veterans have returned to Vietnam to help efface old animosities. But as the veterans of the Civil War died off in the early 1900s, new waves of hatred swept the country, resulting now in the removal and desecration of the monuments built at a time of reconciliation between the North and the South, if not between the blacks and the whites. Confederate soldiers killed Union soldiers; neither side killed slaves. Blacks were more likely to die as soldiers in the Union army than as slaves in the South.
History today only remembers the Civil War as a war to subjugate blacks as slaves, which they were. But the South was more than that. It was a genteel culture, built on graciousness and family ties, which in many cases embraced the slaves who worked in the houses, if not those who worked in the fields. That lifestyle largely died after the war, as chronicled in Gone with the Wind. The monuments which New Orleans is tearing down memorialized the best representatives of those gracious ante bellum days, not the repression of slaves. It is a rewriting of history by people who were not directly involved in the Civil War: blacks who by and large did not fight in the war, and immigrants who have come to America in the last hundred or so years and have no personal connection to the war. Ann Coulter came up with a test for someone who would be an unquestioned American: a person with four grandparents born in the United States. People who meet this test are scattered all across the country, from New York to California and Maine to Texas, but are no longer the force they used to be. I think they would still reflect the kinship between the Union and the Confederacy that their grandfathers shared in the 1900s, and thus would be unlikely to be pushing for the destruction of these monuments.
Finally, the hatred directed against anyone who was in anyway connected to slavery threatens to undermine the United States. Many of the Founding Fathers who broke with England through the Declaration of Independence, and then formed the new nation with the Constitution were slave owners. I will not be surprised to see other monuments come down. If the Washington monument is not destroyed, it may be renamed something like the “National Monument.” Jefferson’s statue may be removed from his memorial and it may become a “Memorial to the Founding Fathers.” Then how long will it be before the nation decides to rewrite the Constitution? We shall see.