Thursday, February 26, 2009

Monument Controversy in Raleigh

OK, I have to admit off the bat that my title for this post is probably a wee bit sensational. There wouldn't even be a controversy were it not for Raleigh News & Observer columnist Peder Zane stirring a pot. Without getting into too great a detail, here's a blog post about the controversy, as well as Zane's original column and a follow up in which Mr. Zane takes to task all the redneck responders to his original piece and reiterates his original argument. He got five pages of comments from the original post and eight more pages of comments from the follow up. Of the responses I've read (and admittedly, I've not looked at more than 10% of them) my favorite is this:

I do not think your logic -- or really the lack of such -- supports the assertion that the monument to the Confederate dead is somehow more pernicious than those nearby which honor former governors Charles B. Aycock or Zeb Vance. You allude to Aycock's role in the White Supremacy campaigns of 1898 and 1900, as well as the N&O's Josephus Daniels, and yet these men employed a rhetoric of race which was associated not only with disfranchisement of African American voters but also, statistically, with a peak in racial lynching in North Carolina. Vance, a former Rebel colonel & wartime governor, led the "racist Democratic machine [which] regained power" in 1876. Furthermore, you must appreciate the fact that many of the NC boys who gave their lives in the War did not own slaves -- in fact, probably the majority. You deserve credit for drawing attention to the complex history of the monument, but I just do not see how one can single it out for destruction while preserving others.

My general opinion is that if we start going around and tearing down monuments, where does it stop? The monument itself is a piece of history and can be used to tell multiple stories. It can tell the story of the 40,000 boys that were lost to the Old North State, and it can also tell the story of the turbulent 1890s (along with the monuments to Aycock and Vance that are mentioned in the above response). My question is, why does Peder Zane feel the need to stir this particular pot? Our country has much bigger things to worry about.

1 comment:

Michael W. said...

I find it rather amusing that Mr. Zane through some kind of osmosis (or perhaps with the assistance of a Quija board)can tell us with such amazing clarity what people from 100 or so years ago were thinking or intending when they did something. I didn't see any proof of any of his statements, just his own interpretations.

One thing I have learned over the years is that you can not judge what happened yesterday by today's standards. Operating under Mr. Zane's premise we should go to Rome and tear down the Colosseum since those bad old Romans tossed Christians to the lions which we all know is a BAD thing. (Unless you are a lion) or perhaps we should burn the old testament since it tells stories of the Jews of old literally wiping out entire nations of people when the Lord told them to do so.

On the campus of UNC at Chapel Hill they are having the same argument, there is discussion of changing the names of buildings named after Pettigrew, Vance and others.

I think it's foolishness, but some folks feel the need to deal with their own guilt in a manner like this. Or it could be that Mr. Zane is one of those folks who will pull a pig's tail just to hear it squeal.