Editor’s note: This article was presented as a staff editorial. It received zero votes in favor, eight dissenting votes and one abstaining vote. Therefore, it has been adjusted to be an individual dissenting opinion.
In recent weeks, cities across the world have been overrun with protesters angry about the death of Minnesota’s George Floyd at the hands of police. Buildings have been burned, businesses looted and both protesters and police injured in sometimes violent standoffs.
Alongside both peaceful and violent protesting, thousands of voices have called, and in some cases, actions have been taken to remove statues and monuments of Confederate generals, soldiers, Founding Fathers, Christopher Columbus and even one of Francis Scott Key, the writer of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” from cities across the U.S. Other examples include the consideration and removal of Robert E. Lee statues and five other Confederate statues from Richmond, Virginia’s “Monument Avenue”, a 13-ton statue of a Confederate soldier in a Washington, D.C. suburb and a statue of Jefferson Davis removed from in front of the Frankfort, Kentucky State Capitol Building.
I celebrate the guaranteed freedom of speech to peacefully protest to address wrongs and issues in society. But, I also condemn the actions taken to remove symbols of the past, which include monuments of people and values we may not necessarily agree with.
America, like all the nations of the world, has a past checkered in blood, disagreements and wars over ideals. The United States has warred against other nations and even itself during the Civil War. Monuments to those who have died in these conflicts have been erected across the country, and for years have stood up to vandalism and protest.
But at this time, many of these monuments, specifically, but not limited to those of Confederate generals and soldiers, are being torn down by leaders of states who are more worried about the here and now than America’s past and what we can learn from it.
Slavery and white supremacy are enormous problems in our society and can be fixed by our leaders through legislation aimed for the benefit of generations to come. But the answer to these critical issues doesn’t lie in removing monuments and statues of the past. It lies in the changes that we make as individuals, in our homes, as communities and as a nation.
In an address to the nation on June 16, 2020, President Donald Trump implored, “Americans can achieve anything when we work together as one national family. To go forward, we must seek cooperation, not confrontation. We must build upon our heritage, not tear it down.”
Yes, the history of the United States of America is littered with dark secrets and hidden agendas. But in order to change the future for all, we must first look at the mistakes of the past and learn valuable lessons. We learn through what we see. That which we cannot see, we often don’t remember.
As Winston Churchill once said, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”
So let us learn from our mistakes, protect and remember them, so we do not repeat them.