New Orleans is removing four monuments erected during the Jim Crow era. Three are to Confederate leaders, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and P. G. T. Beauregard, and fourth is to white rioters who objected to the integrated police force of Reconstruction era Louisiana. There has been significant opposition, and some supporters of the monuments have issued threats against city officials and the owners and workers of the firms that will do the work. The city plans to remove these monuments, unannounced, at night, with police protection for the workers who will be wearing bullet proof vests and helmets.
This is a good and thorough essay by a knowledgeable historian, Kevin M. Levin, about these monuments found in the thousands throughout the former Confederate states and in some border Union states. He relates the story of the Robert E. Lee monument, both Lee’s life and white Southerners’ images of him.
It is well worth reading this because, in my opinion, what today’s Southern whites say about these monuments, and their ancestors, and about the Civil War distorts or erases the story of the Civil War and about the monuments themselves.
Informed and knowledgeable, yes. But Lee remains in my eyes a truly superior human despite certain barbaric things he did, such as kill black Union prisoners near the end of the war. Humanity evolves (which is a truism of course). Many great philosophers and religious thinkers have stated that slavery is natural and inevitable – see for example http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/slavery/ethics/philosophers_1.shtml. Humanity has reached a new level of understanding on the matter. Yet, some humans are born unable to take care of themselves and can live only in a state resembling slavery, in which other people govern their every act but do not own them as property and thus cannot sell them.
People are of their times and I believe should be judged according mostly to the norms of their times, less so to humanity’s new and improved norms.