One Mississippi, One Nation

On June 29, Mississippi voted in a bi-partisan manner to remove the Confederate flag from its state flag. In a powerful moment, Mississippi reconciled with its past. A state that did not ratify the 13th amendment till 2013 was finally ready to move forward – letting go of its divisive and brutal past.
In Virginia, there is a similar conversation – around our statues and the name of our schools, a large majority bear the namesake of Confederate Generals. Virginians, by in large, are ready to move forward  -and take down its testaments to a glory that never was – as our nation toils in racial unrest. Taking down these symbols of the Confederacy, a nation created out of the defense of the institution of slavery and slaughter of fellow Americans, is a no brainer.
However, if we are to move forward as one nation, certain testaments must stand. Ignoring the real problem of police and criminal justice reform, the far-left has moved in a chaotic direction – the destruction of all things and monuments representing America’s past.
George Washington. Ulysses S. Grant. Teddy Roosevelt. Abolitionists. Doesn’t matter if you were a good guy. Even Obama’s been vandalized. Burn it all to the ground seems to be their solution, damn the consequences. Latte liberal, predominately white anarchists, have seized this moment where the nation was poised to come together and protect Black lives by ironically putting their white privilege on display.
As an educator, American history is glorious, messy, full of paradoxes and disappointments. Often, it is mythologized, and edited. We are a nation of laws, not men, and even our Founders need to be discussed for who they were as a whole person – good and bad. To paraphrase Virginia Justice John Charles Thomas, these men were imperfect people with perfect ideas.
A statue is meant to uphold an individual’s highest accomplishments and ideas – not the flaws. Lee’s greatest accomplishment was taking up arms against his nation and siding with the institution of slavery. That’s what makes his statue a problem and Washington’s worthy. Washington led the nation at a time not many could have- he stepped aside when he didn’t have to. Jefferson’s words gave freedom to those he was afraid to – as did Madison’s.
If we do not have basic principles, basic figures to uphold and aspire to, then we do not have a nation. Do we need to expand the figures honored? Absolutely. Frederick Douglass, Shirley Chisolm, Edward Brooke, Harriet Tubman, Barack Obama deserve to have their visage and their amazing contributions to this nation chiseled in marble, and to be gazed upon with amazement. “Rumors of War” was an amazing start to a promising tradition.
But if we allow the narrative that nuance no longer matters, the arrogance that if they were Lincoln they could have done more, or that nothing deserves to stand, then neither will we.
Let us not lose sight of the fact that liberty and justice for all must be fought for everyday, not just whenever an election year is upon us. Let us not lose sight that most Americans, of all colors and creeds, want the best for this country, and salute a flag for its promises, not its
flaws. Let us not lose sight that a House divided cannot stand. And neither can a house without a foundation.
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