Amidst his rambling, resignation-worthy reversion to racist absurdity yesterday, Donald Trump ran interference for the neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and other white-supremacists rallying futilely around Confederate monuments. In his Monday press skirmish, Trump claimed that removing statutes of Robert E. Lee would slip us down the slope to knocking down half of Mount Rushmore and contended that decisions about statues of Robert E. Lee should be left “local town, community or the federal government depending on where it is located.”
If it were up to Robert E. Lee, those statues wouldn’t exist:
But Lee himself never wanted such monuments built.
“I think it wiser,” the retired military leader wrote about a proposed Gettysburg memorial in 1869, “…not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”
…”As regards the erection of such a monument as is contemplated,” Lee wrote of an 1866 proposal, “my conviction is, that however grateful it would be to the feelings of the South, the attempt in the present condition of the Country, would have the effect of retarding, instead of accelerating its accomplishment; [and] of continuing, if not adding to, the difficulties under which the Southern people labour” [Lisa DesJardins, “Robert E. Lee Opposed Confederate Monuments,” PBS NewsHour, 2017.08.15].
Even the general in whose name Trumpist white supremacists cloak their racist agenda as preservation of history felt that preserving that history in public stone was counterproductive.