To The Victor Go The Spoils

Imagine with me for a minute. You are with a group of people living in America. People far away are telling you what you can and you can’t do. It is their way or the highway. How would you feel? Of course, this is a situation you would have found leading up to the Revolutionary War in North America. It is also a situation you would have found in the southern states of the United States of America in the lead up to the Civil War.

Let me be TOTALLY clear about something. Racism is wrong. But it is not an “American problem”. Slavery was and is wrong. But slave labor happened in all cultures through history, and in some forms still happens to this day. That being said…

When two parties go to war, the winner of that war has won the right to re-write history and future as they see fit. This war-mongering and subsequent actions were the way politics played out commonly. However, slowly, the humans of planet Earth have realized their life expectancy can go UP when their posturing goes DOWN. Now they refer to these behaviors as bullying on an international level.

But, when war does happen, it is still anticipated by the losers that they will face the need to “repay” for their actions in a number of different ways. It is still anticipated by the winners that they will get to fashion the picture of history and the future to make them more comfortable.

I set all this stage for a reason that should be obvious if you keep up with the news. They are taking down monuments in New Orleans that have been part of the city for DECADES. Forcing removal and disallowing monuments of the like back when the Civil War was over would have been expected. To me, the removal of these monuments now feels vindictive. Wrong or right, these monuments are part of the heritage of the south. But only part. Instead of removing them, why can’t we add, as Paul Harvey would put it, “The Rest Of The Story”?

Yes, they are monuments to those who fought to preserve the “way of the South” when it comes to slavery.

But they were also fighting for the right to be represented by a government who they felt was seeing to their needs and wants. They were fighting for the right to legislate as they wished in each state. They were fighting for their individual identities as Southerners, and as residents of their respective states, all while fighting for the agreed on notion of what was the common good for them all.

WHAT they were trying to protect may have been wrong. WHY they were trying to protect it is the same reason every war is fought. WHAT they were trying to protect was bound to die out anyway. WHY they were trying to protect it are reasons that are considered righteous reasons when you chose to go to war. Only after that war is over do the winners get to say that the WHY was evil. Here’s the funny thing. In the Civil War, both sides had the same WHY. Only the WHAT was different.

Whitewashing history does not remove the troubles of that history. It only pushes those movements underground, where they can grow out of sight. They grow unchecked. Why not leave the history up and add to it? Battle those who still espouse and engender the values of WHAT the South was fighting for with EDUCATION about why the WHAT was wrong?

One way or the other, good luck to New Orleans. I truly hope their actions provide the peace they are seeking by taking those actions.

Also published on Medium.