I read with interest the article concerning Pct. 4 Commissioner Shannon Brown’s plans to put the question of whether to remove and what to do with the Confederate veterans’ monument currently residing on the Gregg County Courthouse lawn.
As is true of a lot of white, middle-aged men of my generation, my views on this issue have evolved over the years from one of support of the monument (while not well versed of the history of it or having a particular strong viewpoint of the Confederate “cause” either way) to a viewpoint in this day and stage of my life of a strongly held belief that it should be removed from the courthouse and placed in a more “historical” setting where supporters can still view it and everyone can learn from it. And more importantly, to those who it offends or provides sorrow, they do not have to look at it, especially in a setting of judicial fairness and the seat of our county government.
How did I come to this latest view of this issue? Through a little bit of reading of some historical accounts of these types of monuments, listening to some of the rational and well-spoken arguments against these monuments and — probably more importantly — a general maturity and growth in empathy towards those who I do not fully understand where they come from, but I respect and believe in their sincerity.
In regard to the history of these monuments, the reason why so many look so much alike stretched across much of the Southern states is because they ARE alike. They were mass produced in the early 1900s by a company in Georgia. The Daughters of the Confederacy sponsored a large fundraising campaign in the first decade of the 20th century to place these statues in as many communities as possible.
You have to remember, in the time period of 1905-1915 there were thousands of Confederate Civil War veterans alive and in their late 50s, 60s or maybe early 70s. I am sure there were many of these men in most communities where these monuments were placed. It could be argued that maybe it was the right thing to do at the time to honor so many veterans still in the community but obviously advancing in years.
I don’t think that is the case now. We are a few years beyond the last Civil War veteran in our midst. Interesting note: The last Confederate veteran died in 1958 at age 112.
Now, to be transparent, I have never held any fascination of or reverence to the Confederacy. I am not sure if any of my ancestors fought on the Confederate side during the war. I was born and raised in Texas, where I don’t think that we had quite the history of remembering the Confederate “cause” as other parts of the South, particularly the more “southern” southeastern states like Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and others. Still, my initial reflexive reaction to questions like this of whether to support the removal of these types of monuments was always more to the “not” support removal — and really just because I felt that as a white southerner that was supposed to be my reaction.
However, times evolve, and hopefully — where appropriate — our viewpoints and cultural values also evolve.
We are lucky in our area of the state that the proponents of the removal and relocation of these monuments have made their arguments in a lawful, peaceful and respectful way. It made their rational and righteousness arguments get through to someone like me, who started off probably not supporting their position. If you listen with your brain and open your heart, then sometimes your mind might get changed. It is a risky thing to do, but it does happen.
I applaud the community leaders like Commissioner Brown and Councilwoman Nona Snoddy who have turned some minds around by their eloquent arguments over this divisive issue. They made sense.
I also applaud the people in the community who put in the time and had the patience to do this the right way — by allowing Brown and Snoddy the opportunity to get this done by lawful means. If the protesters had turned into rioters, they may not have changed my mind and others like me.
We are lucky to live in East Texas. You can watch the news and see that the way our leaders are doing things here is not how other community leaders are choosing to handle similar issues. Maybe we really are a cut above the rest of the country. I am kind of proud of everyone so far on both sides of this process and issue.
So, put me down as a supporter of this effort to move this monument off the courthouse lawn. The courthouse should be a unifying place in our community where everyone feels welcome and equal. I don’t really need to completely understand why some of my fellow citizens feel betrayed by this monument, only that they do and that alone should be reason enough for me to support its removal.