Dear Decaturish – I seriously question the need to move the Confederate monumentAn inscription on the Confederate monument in Decatur. Photo by Erik Voss
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As a Democrat, instructor, and a Decatur resident, I seriously question the view that the Decatur memorial monument to the boys who tragically died in the Civil War needs to be removed from the Square. Education regarding this monument and its historical context is the best option.
Historically, the monument represents the beliefs and values of the community at that time, as well as how we have changed since then. It is part of our heritage. The removal of this memorial helps to obscure or obliterate that heritage and those changes. The desire to remove it is an understandable but reactionary response to destroy symbols of the past rather than to discuss and reflect reasonably on them.
As I have commented before, the words of this monument neither affirm slavery nor make heroes out of Confederate generals as was the case in Charlottesville. Rather, some of the words declare the right of the states to separate from the union as many states believed the Constitution empowered them to do at that time.
We should not undercut or obscure this debate. It is not a monument to racism, as some have stated, but a monument to those who died in the war as well as a statement of the right of the States not to be limited or controlled by the Federal government. I do not subscribe to the latter view, but I do believe we should address that issues directly through our schools and the media. Removing the monument from public view does not accomplish that. Our decision should not be a reactionary one in response to Charlottesville, but one based on how we can best address the issues of our time. Removing or obliterating our heritage is not the best way.
Our best way is 1) to erect a plaque next to the monument clarifying the dominant causes of the war and the limits of states rights; and 2) making these issues a basis for reflection in our schools and in our media. Papers could be written on these issues by students. Making this monument a basis for education is the wiser and more profitable decision.
I think that both Black and White in Decatur, as well as teachers in the Decatur and Dekalb school systems, would want to have this discussion. And I am sure that both Dr. Gaffield (historian) and I (sociologist) — among many others — would enjoy coming to the schools and participating in it. Our children could greatly benefit from it. This is vital education!
– Cam Coltharp
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