Vandalism, pure and simple: The defacing of our history

In our opinion

Historic monuments and markers belong to a state and its people. At times they may express sentiments or reveal information that some among us might wish were not expressed or revealed, but that is the way of history.

In 1886, Jefferson Davis, once president of the once Confederate States of America, came to Montgomery and laid the cornerstone for a monument on the grounds of the state capital to those who served the South in the Civil War. It was to be a memorial to courage and sacrifice. It also was conceived as a statement about what was being crafted into the “Lost Cause.”

On that cornerstone was raised a column 98 feet tall, sitting on a base 45 feet square, and on its four sides were statues of Confederate soldiers representing the cavalry, infantry, artillery and navy.

People who came to Montgomery were impressed by the dignity of the design, by the reverence it inspired, and by the devotion it reflected.

Later, scholars who study the New South look at the monument as a reflection of the “civic religion” that refined and reinforced the ascent to power of the Bourbon Democrats, a faith in the doctrine of Southern exceptionalism that elevated men like Lee and Jackson and Pelham to near sainthood status and made into heroes every man who fought for the cause and every woman who nursed the wounded and keep the faith.

So, to deface such a monument is to deface history. And that is what has happened in Montgomery.

Last week, a person or persons unknown climbed over the low fence that surrounded the monument and painted the faces and hands of the Confederate soldiers black. Then they scrawled letters and numbers that suggested that the act was conceived to honor Nat Turner, who led a slave rebellion in 1831.

But it wasn’t. It was an act of vandalism, and it is not the only one we have seen.

In recent years historic monuments that do not fit into the politically correct concepts of certain groups have been attacked in a similar fashion to the Confederate Memorial. Markers along the route of the Selma-to-Montgomery march have been defaced. Someone shot up a sign on the Martin Luther King Expressway in Montgomery.

The people who do these things think they are making a meaningful political statement. They aren’t. They are vandals, pure and simple.

And they should be treated as such.

Copyright © 1998-2007 Consolidated Publishing.

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