If my readers know nothing else about me, they usually are quick to know I am from Virginia. Not only am I from Virginia, I moved to Texas from Richmond – the Capital of the Confederacy.
I grew up hunting Civil War relics in western Hanover County. On any given day I could turn up several bullets – some .69 caliber round shots, but mostly the oblong .69 caliber three ring, which had rings etched at its firing end – as well as buttons, buckles and pins.
I can tell you how deep in the Confederacy I lived: Our woods and pastures were still lined with rows of trenches and in late 1992 a neighbor found the fully-clad skeletal remains of a confederate soldier when he turned over his garden.
As a young adult, I caved to the call of the city and I moved to Richmond's Fan District, where I lived in a simple shotgun duplex on the bustling corner of Floyd Avenue and Robinson Street – just blocks from the famous and historic Monument Avenue and the city's beautiful Boulevard (known only as Boulevard).
Monument Avenue is like no other thoroughfare in the nation. The grassy tree-lined mall which separates eastbound and westbound traffic is adorned by enormous statues memorializing Virginian Confederate participants of the Civil War Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Jefferson Davis, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson and Matthew Fontaine Maury. The mall is flanked, for its entire length, by historic homes and beautiful architecture.
In light of recent events in Virginia, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney has asked the Monument Avenue Commission to consider removing the monuments (whether or not Stoney will address the other umpteen Confederate statues and memorials in the city is a question I cannot answer.)
I am torn. I love the majesty and beauty of Monument Avenue.
I am torn. I can see the monuments as a reminder of darker times – times we have not moved past. I can also see monuments being removed across the nation to no avail.
I am torn. I see people still acting out in appalling ways. I see riots. I see murder. I see hatred. I see racism – even after all the effort that has gone into civil rights.
I am torn. I see extremists using these historic landmarks as rally points for the good of no living man. To incite hate and violence. To perpetuate racism and stigma. To disturb the peace.
I am torn. History. Our nation's past. My life in Virginia. That weekend's tragedy in Virginia. The unrest across this country. The bloodshed. The hate. It is taking a toll on my heart. It is ruining our lives. It is ruining our country
Last month I received an invite to an event in Gonzales. "Come and Take it Down" was set to take place during our famous Come and Take it Celebration. It was to be another hateful rally around a monument. This time the monument on Confederate Square was the target. A rally to take the monument down. Fortunately, the rally event page has disappeared. Hopefully the rally will not take place. We don't need that kind of negativity here.
I can only say one thing for the men who fought the Civil War: They fought for what they believed in.
No one alive now has ever been a slave. No one alive now has ever owned a slave. Whether you believe the Civil War was fought for States Rights, or for slavery, the war was fought and we cannot unwrite history by tearing down monuments any more than I can unwrite this newspaper by burning down a library.
Fortunately, for all of us, the darkest of times are – hopefully – behind us. We no longer buy and sell men, women and children. Civil rights – though more progress is needed – has come a long way.
We have progressed. Our beliefs have changed for the better, but it's not good enough. We too should fight for what we believe in.
We have civil rights, but we are not civil. We need to work on our people skills. Exercise tolerance. Love one another. We need to fight for what we believe in. We need to fight until there is equality for all. We need to focus on what matters. Loyalty. Duty. Honor. Family.
If the distraction of taking down monuments stops violence and ignorance, then by all means take them down; but the truth is the only thing that that will move our nation forward is hard work. Love. Dedication. Spirit. Unity. Equality. Hope. The likes we have yet to exhibit on American soil.