Our History Is Not Perfect–But It Is Our History

When you look at history, you need to remember that you are a traveler in a strange land. The values and things we take for granted today may be very different from the values and things taken for granted at the time you are looking at. We also need to be very wary of people who try to rewrite history or remove parts of our history. Our history is our history–we can’t change it. We can learn from it, but we can’t change it.

Stone Mountain Park is Georgia is considered the “Confederate Rushmore.” The park includes an educational documentary “The Battle for Georgia – a History of the Civil War in Georgia.” The park is an education center dedicated to a very unhappy chapter in American history. Part of that history is the Confederate Battle Flag.

Yesterday Yahoo News posted an article about a request for a boycott of Stone Mountain Park in Georgia:

Democratic state Representative LaDawn Blackett Jones this week urged people to stay away from the park 10 miles (16 km) east of Atlanta because it flies three flags of the pro-slavery Confederacy alongside the U.S. and Georgia state flags.

Bobbie Smith of Fitzgerald, Georgia, who was camping at Stone Mountain with her family, called the boycott call “just stupid.”

Now let’s look at that statement for a minute and put it into context. Britain abolished slavery in the 1830’s. Slavery remained legal in many countries of the world until the end of the 20th Century. It is now technically illegal in all countries, although it is still practiced in some countries in some form with a different name. Before we talk about the ‘pro-slavery Confederacy,’ we need to consider that although slavery is a horrible thing, it was acceptable behavior in many circles at the time. Would the Representative have described 19th Century England as pro-slavery England? To deny that part of America’s history or to try to gloss over it is to deny where we have been.

The article further reports:

The park is on state land and run by the Stone Mountain Memorial Association. Spokesman John Bankhead said, “People on both sides of the issue say it (the flag) belongs in a museum. Here in Georgia, the Stone Mountain Park serves as that.”

The park is known as the “Confederate Mount Rushmore” for its 90-foot-tall (27-meter-tall) relief sculpture of three Confederate figures – President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. The park describes it as the largest high relief sculpture in the world.

The thing we need to remember here is that the Confederacy was not evil. It practiced slavery, which was wrong, but accepted at the time. The Confederate States fought a war with the United States to preserve their way of life–not to take territory. The Confederacy is part of America’s heritage. Hopefully we have learned from the mistake made in accepting slavery and have done a better job of treating all Americans equally. Meanwhile, the hysteria about the Confederate battle flag is a bit overblown. One wonders what is behind the effort to erase this part of America’s history.

The Correct Response

The shooter in Charleston had stated that his aim was to start a ‘race war.’ He was going to do that by killing black people in an historically black church. Unfortunately for him (fortunately for Charleston), he didn’t take into consideration the character of the people in that church and the character of the people of Charleston.

This is a time for mourning and for soul searching. How did that kind of hatred fester and lead to the death of good people? What was the source of his ideas and do we have a way of eliminating that source?

But this is also a time for celebrating. Celebrating the love that has poured out toward the people who lost loved family members and also toward the other members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church who are also feeling the loss. The response to this tragedy by the people of Charleston has been inspiring.

Yesterday the U.K. Daily Mail posted an article about the prayer vigil in Charleston that took place yesterday.

Here are two pictures from the article:

Packed: Thousands crammed themselves into the College of Charleston Arena on Friday night to remember the nine slain churchgoers

As mourners walked in they were handed roses of all different hues to hold or lay down in honor of the victims

My favorite quote from the article:

Mayor Joe Riley said ‘If that young man thought he was going to divide this country… he miserably failed.’

What happened in Charleston was horrible, but the people of Charleston are an example of how to bring peace in the face of violence. I am so impressed by how the leaders of Charleston–the political, spiritual, and other leaders–have handled this situation. The leaders of Charleston have truly acted as leaders.