Ford said: “As a soldier, Gen. Lee left his mark on military strategy. As a man, he stood as the symbol of valor and of duty. As an educator, he appealed to reason and learning to achieve understanding and to build a stronger nation. The course he chose after the war became a symbol to all those who had marched with him in the bitter years towards Appomattox.”
Something’s happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear. But we think it has something to do with The. Fundamental. Transformation. When we saw the story about the folks at the U.S. Army War College in a quandry over what to do with portraits of US Military Academy graduates Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, which had been hanging in the halls of the institution for generations, we thought “That’s odd. Now? After all these years? It’s a problem?”
There are two things that bother us about the article linked above, aside from the notion that , as with everything else, the self-appointed PC Police across America and with access to it’s institutions, feel empowered to either change or eradicate the historical narratives, and the people who populate them, from the national conscience. One is the statement by the War College’s spokesperson, who therefore speaks for the War College, that Robert E. Lee wanted to destroy the United States.
“[Lee] was certainly not good for the nation. This is the guy we faced on the battlefield whose entire purpose in life was to destroy the nation as it was then conceived. … This is all part of an informed discussion.”
More on the “informed discussion” angle in a moment. What bothers us is that this spokesperson is so cavalier and uncompromising in her description of Lee, and apparently unwilling or uninstructed to recognize the entire context of the Robert E. Lee story, or to acknowledge that he had at one time been a loyal officer in the United States Army, plus the fact that the War College, by definition, is about the study of War and Lee certainly was an acknowledged practitioner of the art. And further, you don’t have to devote your life to the study of Lee to ascertain that he certainly had mixed feelings about the whole Civil War episode, that he retired in peace after Appamattox and tried to be a good citizen and that, as the article mentions near the end, was restored to full citizenship and even praised by an Act of Congress:
In 1975, Congress enacted a joint resolution reinstating Lee’s U.S. citizenship in what could be considered a final act to heal Civil War wounds. The resolution praised Lee’s character and his work to reunify the nation. It noted that six months after surrendering to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Lee swore allegiance to the Constitution and to the Union.
Perhaps the spokesperson was unaware of that fact. The second thing that bothers us, in fact is rather ominous about the whole affair when coupled with what we discuss below, is that reference is made to an anonymous “official”:
During the inventory, an unidentified official — not the commandant, Maj. Gen. Anthony A. Cucolo III — asked the administration why the college honors two generals who fought against the United States, college spokeswoman Carol Kerr said.
It is not clear what this “official” is an official of, whether it is a school official, a political official, an official down at the local bank or what, but apparently his/her officialness was cause for the “informed discussions” mentioned above to begin.
That is one story. The date of this Washington Times article is December 17. In searching the Internet for related items, we came across what we at first thought was the same story by a different outlet – the Washington Post. But a closer look revealed that while the characters mentioned were indeed Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, the venue in which the question was being raised about the appropriateness of their likenesses and tributes being displayed was – the Washington National Cathedral! The date of the Washington Post story is December 10, just one week before the Times piece. The author of the Post article says he “recently learned” about the niches at the Cathedral. He references a local history professor on the specifics of them, but whether the professor was the inspiration for the piece or not isn’t clear. What is clear is the writer’s disgust at the homage paid to Jackson and Lee.
So. What are the odds the two completely unrelated news outlets in the nation’s capitol would be spurred to publish, within a week’s time, questioning articles about respect paid to two Civil War Generals at two different venues, one in Pennsylvania and one in Washington, DC, with no acknowledged connection between the two inquiries? Why are people getting their dander up about images and tributes which have been in place for ages? And in the case of Robert E. Lee at least, in the face of US Government- sanctioned (by Congress and President Ford) absolution for past offenses and recognition of meritorious service to the cause of reconciliation, human understanding and the rebuilding of the nation?
What is going on here?