In a column published Feb. 4, Ross Nelson misses the point entirely on the issue of Confederacy monuments in the public square. Public monuments exist as a means to celebrate or show respect for the achievements of extraordinary individuals and the ideals they represented. There is no justification for publicly celebrating the black mark the Confederacy, or those who fought for the Confederacy, left on our history.
People who make similar arguments to Nelson claim that the Civil War was about federal imperialism versus state sovereignty. Nelson made it a point to defend the right for states to secede. To some extent this is true, but framing the whole conflict in this way obscures the reason for conflict between the federal government and the southern states in the first place. When a state claims the right for their citizens to own slaves, that is where their right to exist as a state ends.
Those who participated in the Confederacy implicitly condoned the practice of slavery. There is no way to decouple the two from one another. Any claim that Confederate states had to 'states rights' is undermined by their abhorrent use of slavery.
In Memphis, one of the monuments taken down where of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Forrest was a general in the Civil War. Forrest was also the founder of the Ku Klux Klan. How can it be justified to publicly celebrate a racist bigot who founded a hate group which still exists to this very day?
Nelson would claim that he should be remembered as a part of a group of "brave men fighting for their homes." But in the backyards of their homes, or homes of their confederate countrymen, they treated African-Americans as sub-human. Treated them as property to be exploited. Bought and sold on the market. Worked bare in the fields against their will. Raped behind closed doors. Whipped near death for refusing orders. Dismembered for trying to escape to freedom. Born into a darkness, life with no hope.
The legacy of the Confederate movement should be more in line with how Nazi and Stalinist regimes are regarded rather than defenders of freedom that some claim it to be. The Confederacy represents state sanctioned ownership of other humans. It valued economic rights over basic civil rights. Quite frankly, it represents some of the worst aspects of the human condition.
The existing monuments should be taken down from open public spaces and put into museums. They do not deserve to be celebrated, they should exist as a reminder of the horrors that humans can inflict on one another for the sake of self-interest.
Forde is a graduate student at North Dakota State University.