Issue date: 12/6/06
The brouhaha surrounding Forrest Hall has gone too far.
I confess, originally, I predicted that the debate would be lukewarm and short-lived, but I did not account for two factors: MTSU’s location in the South, and the power of stupid people in large groups.
Be that as it may, it is high time we made something productive out of this seething hate-fest. This debacle is silly for several reasons.
For one, the people that started the "Students Against Forrest Hall" Facebook group reportedly decided to have a protest since apparently we college students don’t protest enough anymore. However, they needed something to protest, so they arbitrarily picked an easy target, a former Confederate war hero. They picked an even easier action; simply removing someone’s name from a building. We can all sleep soundly knowing that these altruistic individuals aim to protect us from dangerous letters on a wall.
The actions of these students struck a nerve with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, white supremacists, civil war historians and pretty much anyone who is generally opposed to revisionist history.
Thus, the forces aligned around two bad choices, aimed on either rewriting history by removing its references, or simply keeping the status quo. It’s the American way – everything is black and white, and there are never more than two choices. As often is the case, they’re both rotten.
Fear not. If you’ve been actively embroiled in this debate, I humbly suggest new ways to vent your anger.
Practice your guitar. Even if you’re not a Recording Industry major, it never hurts.
Go for a run. Exercise is good, and when you’re done, you’ll be too out of breath to scream. You’ll be healthy, and we won’t have to listen to you.
Write a grant proposal that aims to start a new history department at MTSU.
The new department would be called "The Center for Civil War Studies at MTSU." You could get a big-name professor to teach about Nathan Bedford Forrest, and learn actual facts, instead of spouting off on Facebook and signing vaguely-worded petitions. You could turn this negative publicity into something positive for MTSU.
Plant grass on the Keathley University Center Knoll. The bare spots are unsightly and look very low-budget.
Read an actual history book, or better yet, two. It’s always great to be able to correct your friends’ facts when you argue about Nathan Bedford Forrest.
Start or join a nonprofit organization to feed the estimated 10,000 homeless people in Nashville, according to Nashville’s Homeless Coalition. These are actual living people who don’t have a place to live, as opposed to Forrest, who is neither living nor homeless.
If studying the racial divide is your thing, then go into the KUC Grill at about noon on a weekday. You will notice that there are two distinctly different areas in which white and black students tend to sit. There, people, is an actual racial divide that you can witness, instead of a shadowy one invoked by a name on a building.
You could also choose to protest the inordinately low graduation rate of MTSU students overall. A good way to do this would be to stay home and study.
Take your dog for a walk. It’s getting close to exam week and Rover is probably feeling neglected. If you don’t have a dog, take someone else’s dog for a walk. No dog will ever turn down a good walk. Once again, you get exercise.
Basically, go do something other than whining about Forrest Hall.
You may say "But wait, you, too are writing about Forrest Hall."
Allow me to clarify. I am not wasting ink arguing whose name should be on the building; rather, I am illustrating that the argument thereof is absurd. It is intentionally divisive, and proposes no solutions past the removal of a building’s name. Nothing says "progress" like the newly commissioned "Between the KUC and Tucker Theater Hall."
Changing "Forrest" won’t make people intermingle in the KUC.
The path to long-term progress is not in hasty resolutions, half-baked protests, or taking an eraser to buildings. The outside world will judge us by the way we conduct our business here, now. We can chose, as an informed student body, to cry over spilt milk, or to be a leader in the field of historical research by fostering dialogue on this touchy subject.
Real dissent is much more difficult than just complaining en masse; it involves action.
Put some teeth in your protest and your money where your mouth is, or else pipe down and stay out of the fight.
© 2006 MTSU Sidelines