Grandfathers — for the benefit of children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren born too late to experience it — sometimes erect statues, memorials, plaques, and monuments to illustrate their time in history. There were such remembrances erected by prior grandfathers and other Americans as artifacts and representations of the Confederacy.
The grandfathers and others who erected them in the South can be safely assumed to have been adherents of the Democratic Party because, until recent years, Republicans were publicly abhorred in the South as sponsors of the ignominious Reconstruction period that tortured a suffering South.
I am 84 and a grandfather, great grandfather, and — possibly before I die — will become a great, great grandfather. I am entitled to those distinctions not because my descendants will be proud of everything I have done or the causes I have espoused, but because I am their personal history and, — though they could wish it otherwise — I am a history they cannot ignore without losing knowledge of the things I might have done wrong or right. The past is indelible.
The Civil War ended 68 years before I came along, though there were still people living who had served the Confederacy. Some statues and memorials they and other people erected honoring Confederate memories and heroes are still standing, which incenses some people ignorant of the real stakes in that war.
In the view of many Southern people at the time, secession was the only avenue available to uphold the written Constitution and preserve its 10th Amendment. Allowing a federal override — a coerced change of state law —would violate the 10th Amendment. The then-current legality of slavery was reluctantly endured by many Southerners as unhappily necessary to uphold the Constitution and its Amendment until the law could be voluntarily changed by state elections. The South considered it to be defending the written Constitution and the states’ power its Tenth Amendment reserved to them; the North was abusing and undercutting it and, in the end, used violence to do so successfully.
It is unfortunate and distressing that, in ignorance of the real Constitutional stakes at issue, some great grandchildren of Democrats surviving that war have been so improperly brainwashed emotionally as to become incensed by their Confederate grandfathers’ wish to preserve their family history of Constitutional integrity. They want Confederate statues and memories destroyed or hidden for hateful reasons.
If they successfully set such an example for other disgruntled agitators, they and their descendants will later suffer undeserved historical disdain and destruction. Unless the descendants of Confederacy-era participants are ready to enthusiastically repudiate and destroy the memorabilia of all Americans who fought or served during the Vietnam War, they are hypocritical if they participate in repudiating and wishing to destroy the memorabilia of Confederate or Union grandfathers.
Because the My Lai Massacre happened during the Vietnam War, people born during the next 84 years whose grandfathers may have served then may be incensed that a monument exists — a wall containing 58,000 names, the Three Servicemen statue, and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial — for Americans killed in the Vietnam War. If so, it will be because they make unwarranted assumptions that all Americans and soldiers who fought then agreed with what happened there or the reason for it. The same unwarranted assumptions motivate the people, including public officials, who wish to eradicate the public history of the Confederacy.
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Vietnam War veterans, the ones who lived, are now of grandfather and great grandfather age. Unless you are at peace with future desecration and destruction of all statues, memorials, plaques, and monuments of the Vietnam War era — and of any other American war that might have proven or may later prove controversial, such as the one during which the Atomic Bomb was dropped — do not desecrate, hide, or destroy the public reminders of the War Between the States and of the Confederacy.
Grandfathers, looking down on you, would not be pleased.
Youngblood is a former Texas assistant attorney general. He lives in Austin.