In 1910, the Daughters of the Confederacy erected a memorial to Gonzales' Confederate dead. This monument is not a tribute to the men driving the cause of the Civil War, nor a tribute to any Confederate generals. It is a memorial to the men who died fighting for their cause.
We all have fights. We all have a cause.
From April 12, 1861 until May 9, 1865, the Civil War, also known as “the War Between the States,” was fought between the United States of America and the Confederate States of America, a collection of 11 southern states – South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee – that seceded from the Union and formed their own country, in order to protect the institution of slavery.
Slavery was the law of the land in the north and in the south, until the early 19th century. Slavery was concentrated in the southern states, where slaves were used as farm laborers and formed the backbone of the southern economy. In the northern states, where industry drove the economy, many people believed that slavery was immoral and wrong.
This was their cause 156 years ago.
In 1865, the United States defeated the Confederate States and abolished slavery across the nation. On June 19, 1865 – two years after The Emancipation Proclamation – slaves were informed of their freedom.
This is no longer our nation's cause.
Do you have a cause?
Are you angry about the memorial in downtown Gonzales?
Is it the size? The inscriptions? The Confederate Flag? The un-named Confederate soldier on top? The memorializing of the dead?
In my opinion the most treacherous part of this particular monument is the time period in which it was erected. The monument was not erected when widows and mothers were mourning the loss of the husbands and sons it is said to memorialize. The Daughters of the Confederacy saw fit to erect this particular memorial 45 years after the end of the Civil War, when the nation was broiling with another heat wave of southern hatred. In 1910 segregation was the southern cause and Jim Crow laws the enforcer.
Segregation lasted until 1964. Our nation was divided by color. That horrifies me. I just cannot imagine a world where everything is black and white. I don't want to imagine it. I think we'd all like to forget it.
On the back side of the memorial is the inscription "Lest We Forget". Lest we forget what? The war? The fight? The cause? The dead?
Lest we forget what else? Humanity? Oppression? Bigotry? Slavery?
Lest we forget every 50 years there is a new civil war?
I am a second-generation American. This means my grandparents were born outside of this country. I am proud of this fact, because my direct lineage cannot be traced back to the treachery, disregard or hatred perpetuated by the Confederate States of America. Nor can it be traced back to segregation.
I do not agree with slavery. Slavery was a miscarriage of justice and rightly abolished. Segregation was just as bad.
I also do not agree with the constant dredging of the ugly past, or with our country's new-found obsession with trying to unwrite history one brick at a time.
Until recently the statue, monument, memorial or whatever you want to call it, on Confederate Square, has been silent, virtually invisible. I personally have lived here for more than two years and I have never once see anyone out there photographing the statue. I have seen no one taking family portraits at the statue. I have never seen anyone with a picnic spread out beneath the statue. I have never even seen anyone giving any regard to the statue – good or bad.
It's simply a back drop. A backdrop to crowds of happy people, musicians, friends, and family. A back drop to festivals and celebrations. It's the least important place in the world, until it is surrounded by the colorful, vibrant people of present-day Gonzales.
We don't have to be that town or that city. You know the ones: The places that have fallen victim to the past, rather than finding their place in the present and paving greater paths into the future. That's not who we are in Gonzales.
Gonzales can move forward. Gonzales can choose to learn from the mistakes of the past. Gonzales can unite. Gonzales can create its own cause.
All this anger has to stop. Everyone needs to let a little love in.
This sounds like a good cause to me: Gonzales Unite.