“I may disagree with what you say, but will defend to death your right to say it” – often attributed to Voltaire is a sentiment dead on arrival in today’s world.
This week County Executive Ike Leggett unilaterally decided to remove the Confederate Statue from the old Red Brick Courthouse.
This comes after two weeks of teeth gnashing in the wake of a shooting in South Carolina and the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag from the statehouse there.
While we agree with Leggett on many things, and understand he probably has deep feelings on this, we will respectfully disagree on the statue’s removal and we will also disagree with Rockville City Councilman Tom Moore’s assessment of Leggett’s move as a “bold” one.
It wasn’t. While the statue is offensive, it was largely ignored by politicians and the public – even those now most angrily denouncing its existence – until the national sport of knee-jerk reacting took over.
Certainly no one in local politics took on this issue until everyone across the country began looking at Confederate symbols in the wake of the South Carolina shooting. That wasn’t a bold move by leaders. It is a move by pandering followers.
It is the same type of move made by former governor Martin O’Malley who recently apologized for saying “All Lives Matter,” in a setting of African Americans who were saying, “Black Lives Matter.”
All lives do matter. Black lives matter as much as white lives and white lives do not matter more than black lives. Jewish lives, Catholic lives, Muslim lives, Druids, Atheists, Agnostics, car dealers, lawyers, reporters and even politicians all matter the same.
Thus, the Confederate statue matters since it was built by lives who matter and the lessons we can learn from that particularly dark moment in history matters.
Monday the Rockville City Council postponed its normally long and often pedantic meeting to host another long and pedantic and ultimately semi-pointless meeting concerning the Confederate Statue.
The City does not own the statue, but might indeed have a small stake in its existence. The statue was originally made in the likeness (supposedly) of former Rockville Mayor Spencer C. Jones – a Democrat, president of the state senate and a member of the Maryland First Cavalry of the Confederacy. He was also one of the driving forces in getting the statue built.
Leggett decided before the Monday meeting to ditch the statue, in an obsequious but not bold move, and still historians and interested citizens piled into Rockville City Council Chambers Monday in numbers rarely seen to have their say – thus if doing nothing else proving beyond a shadow of a doubt the relevance of the statue by making people take a renewed look at its history – the essence of why historical monuments are to be maintained.
The actual boldest statement of the night came from local historian Tony Cohen, an African American man who spoke about the need to keep history alive and who began to weep when he recalled his nuptials to his husband which occurred near the statue. His speech resonated far more than anything else said that night.
When The Sentinel originally began publication, eight years before the Battle of Gettysburg, we published advertisements for slaves. That is a hideous affront to human beings. But do we turn a blind eye to man’s inhumanity to man? Slavery is a spavined practice relegated to history. But we don’t burn the original copies of our paper. We reproduce them and distribute them and make them available so people may learn from them.
Our national and local so-called leaders have lost all touch with this idea. Congressman Chris Van Hollen, another politician whom we have agreed with on many occasions also spoke erroneously on this subject when he said Monday “there is no place for other symbols of a shameful era of institutionalized racism in public spaces.”
Now we will have to tear down every monument to the Confederacy at all the national battlefields, take down the American Flag (Since it represented slavery prior to the Civil War,) and take down a few faces at Mount Rushmore since our founding fathers owned slaves.
It is disturbing when citizens do not understand the need to learn from history.
It is more disturbing when those who are supposedly leading the masses grandstand and jump on the issue of the moment in order to curry favor and votes without thinking of the long-term consequences of their actions. We have become a nation of the opportunistic leading the gullible. Maybe we can erect a monument to that.