Owen Courreges: Before you tear down a statue, shouldn’t you know who it depicts?

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Owen Courrèges

Owen Courrèges

Former New Orleans mayor and textbook narcissist Marc Morial has come out in favor of Mayor Landrieu’s plan to remove four Civil War memorials located throughout the city. The erstwhile mayor, now head of the Urban League, proceeded to immediately put his foot in his mouth.

“Those symbols represent division,” Morial explained. “I don’t think Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard really had ties to the city.”

Apparently Morial’s grasp of Civil War history, even as it directly concerns the city he led for two terms as mayor, is just as lacking as his humility. While Lee had no major ties to New Orleans in particular, Jefferson Davis died in New Orleans and was originally buried here.

P.G.T. Beauregard, on the other hand, was born and raised in New Orleans. He primarily spoke French, and only learned English as an adolescent. One of his nicknames in the military was “Little Creole.”

Beauregard retired to New Orleans after the war and had his citizenship fully restored. He subsequently turned down offers to lead the armies of Brazil, Romania and Egypt. Instead, he eventually became the commissioner of public works for the city. In 1894, Beauregard died and was buried in Metairie Cemetery.

But of course Morial is completely ignorant of all of this. He’s a gigantic advertisement for the rationale behind Landrieu’s push to scrub all monuments of Confederate leaders from the landscape: simplistic thinking and wholesale ignorance of history.

Both of these factors were on display when the council opened the floor for public comment on a motion to initiate a 60-day period of discussions and public meetings over the fate of the four monuments. It rapidly became clear that Landrieu had opened up quite the can of worms.

“In the French Quarter you have Andrew Jackson and E.D. White in front of the Supreme Court building – a member of the White League,” local activist Malcolm Suber told the council. Suber’s argument was that the city needs to go further in purging references to racists and slaveholders.

In a city with as long a history as New Orleans, this would entail razing most existing statues and memorials and renaming a huge share of streets. Nevertheless, that’s the destination where Landrieu’s logic leads.

Even the ubiquitous symbol of the city, the fleur-de-lis, came under fire. Just this Friday, WWL-TV published an article by Wynton Yates entitled “Historians say fleur-de-lis has troubled history.” The piece quoted slave historian Dr. Ibrahima Seck as describing how slaves accused of fleeing “would be taken before a court and the sentence would be being branded on one shoulder and with the fleur-de-lis[.]”

Yates mused that “some may wonder whether there are parallels to the Confederate flag.”

This entire state of affairs has clearly devolved into some sort of witch hunt. It was reasonable to remove public displays of the Confederate Battle flag because those were linked to opposition to the Civil Rights movement in the 1950’s and 60’s. However, we don’t typically remove statues and memorials even if the individuals commemorated are controversial. Rather, it is generally sufficient that they are important historical figures.

A good comparison here would be Columbus Circle in New York City, at the center of which is a monument to Christopher Columbus similar to Lee Circle’s monument to Robert E. Lee. Although Columbus was a crucial explorer who brought knowledge of the Americas to Europe, he also slaughtered and enslaved the native populations he encountered – not a nice fellow. Some even credit him as the founder of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

It’s understandable that many minority groups, especially American Indians, wouldn’t be particularly fond of Columbus. Still, that’s not really the point of the monument. Columbus’ voyages, for better or worse, fundamentally shaped America.

In the same way, the figures of the Civil War shaped the South. The war finally decided the issue of slavery and established the primacy of the federal government. Southern society was forever changed.

To the extent Landrieu and his supporters believe that Confederate monuments send a wrong, divisive message, educating people of the fuller history of the Civil War is crucial. There is also little preventing the city from simply customizing plaques to clarify that the monuments are merely historic commemorations of important Southern figures in the Civil War and in no way imply support for the Confederate cause.

Of course, that’s not enough to satisfy the inquisition. And when a former mayor of New Orleans denies that P.G.T. Beauregard “had ties to the city,” we can see plainly that ignorance is not just a part of the problem, it is the problem.

Ignorance is why these monuments aren’t placed in proper context. Ignorance is what draws people to become distracted by these types of non-substantive issues while our streets run red with the blood of our youth. Ignorance is what politicians like Landrieu traffic in and depend on.

This particular ploy needs to fail so it will send an unequivocal message to those at the top that we are neither stupid nor ignorant. New Orleans won’t be fooled.

Owen Courrèges, a New Orleans attorney and resident of the Garden District, offers his opinions for UptownMessenger.com on Mondays. He has previously written for the Reason Public Policy Foundation.

225 thoughts on “Owen Courreges: Before you tear down a statue, shouldn’t you know who it depicts?

  1. Excellent essay with a rational viewpoint. Interesting that Beauregard was Commissioner of Public Works. My family is related to him, and most lived along Esplanade, upon which his statue gazes. He undoubtedly worked with my great-grandfather who was key in designing and building our drainage system in the late 1800’s. Union soldiers were quartered in my ancestors’ homes along Esplanade.

    However, I believe relocating and renaming has a great deal of merit. I propose a Civil War Grove in either Brechtel or Audubon Park for all the controversial memorabilia.

    • “Controversial”? Is that the new litmus test? “Controversial to whom? How many”?
      I find many things in our society controversial but refuse to run crying. I deal with it. I’ve adapted the old “suck it up Buttercup” attitude and it works.
      This generation is a sorry excuse for pretty much everything. Whatever hurts one’s little feelings should just go away. We need to form a petition or demand someone gets fired, humiliated publicly or branded a Racist or Homophobe. Now we want to re-write History. What a joke.

  2. Excellent article! Landrieu’s proposals are nothing more than a cheap political gesture. Does he really believe that spending money hauling statues around is more important than more streetlights or filled potholes? And Marc Morial doesn’t know that P.G.T. Beauregard was from NOLA? That’s priceless!

  3. taking them down is not going to solve any problems – keeping them up is not going to solve any problems – separate from the history it is all political – just watch tv – this is being used to get on the bandwagon and get recognized and make a pity me speech. We are killing each other and education sucks in New Orleans – oh-never mind that, that’s not important – we have to take the statues down – they are more important than anything else….I have to go get my hair done for the camera tonight when I protest – want to look good for the tv.

  4. The fallacy of your argument is that it is indeed both “stupid” and
    “ignorant”. The issue is not that “we don’t typically remove statues and
    memorials even if the individuals commemorated are controversial”. It’s
    about doing what is right regardless of how “typical” it is. The issue
    is also not about the need to give political leaders a history lesson.
    Moreover, it is a failure by you and many other white people to
    understand, recognize, acknowledge or be sensitive to the fact that that
    the public honoring and display of these Confederates is deeply, deeply
    offensive to so many people that live in or visit this city. These
    Confederates on display protected the enslavement, torture, rape,
    robbery, dehumanization, and lynching of blacks, no matter how you try
    to spin it. They fought a WAR to keep them enslaved and eventually
    forced them to assimilate in a brutal, segregated white ruled society. I
    wonder how my Jewish friends would feel if there were a statute of
    Hitler or Mengele Uptown. I wonder how my grandfather would feel if
    there were a statue honoring the Japanese Emperor Hirohito in Mid-city.
    Connection to the city or not, for many of our fellow citizens these
    Confederates are the historical version of Osama Bin Laden or Kim
    Jong-un. I wonder if white people who say the statues of Confederate
    Generals and Presidents should remain in place are just hypocrites and
    that if there were a statue of some historical figure that was the
    leader of an oppressive regime that enslaved their white ancestors,
    would those statues honoring them continue to be publicly displayed. I
    wonder if white people will one day finally realize that the fact that
    they are not offended by these statues (at least not as much) is because
    their people did not suffer through slavery, segregation, Jim Crow,
    much less modern-day institutional racism? I also wonder if some white
    columnists will continue to just ignore the historical fact that the
    most vile, corrupt politicians in the history of New Orleans were all
    white, or if they will continue to blame everything on Marc Morial.

    • Literally everything you said is ridiculous and unsupported by the basic facts of the Civil War. If anyone is racist, it is you, and you would crumple if someone mounted a serious and valid criticism of black people of the past or today, which is incredibly easy to do. But that is something you are going to be shielded from. You might suddenly feel offended since the media and politicians told you to be offended, but I feel offended that lunatics with a radical reimagination of history openly threaten to destroy and erase it. Why don’t we ask the civil war historians what they think, since they are the experts in this field? Oh wait, few of them would agree with it, let’s not ask them.

    • If your asinine statements were true, and Lee was viewed in the same respect as a Hitler or Bin Laden, we would have heard more than a peep prior to last month’s tragedy. Instead his statue has sat there for decades until recently without the faintest public discussion. So unless you were leading protests before this year you’re a giant hypocrite.

    • Sure enough, Jonathan’s very active facebook wall posts are full of anti-confederate flag rants. Incidentally, they all began on June 17th. I guess he couldn’t be bothered to care before then.

      • Daison, looking back at your comments on this thread and in those as far
        back as a couple of years ago, there is a common theme: You act tough
        and call people all kinds of names when you disagree with them. But, you
        are too much of a coward to level the playing field and use your real
        identity. It must suck to live your life in such obscurity.

    • I doubt that ALL corrupt politicians in the history of New Orleans were white. I don’t think former state legislator and congressman Bill Jefferson is white! And I believe some of Jefferson’s politically-connected family members went to jail for being corrupt as well.

    • Assuming that you are a woman, you should at least be a little aware of how insensitive your statement is. That comment is an insult to any actual victims of rape.

      • It’s funny how you are getting offended on behalf of other people. If that is true, then I guess we can’t discuss the Rape of Nanjing, and a “battle with cancer” is an insensitive insult to all the real combat veterans, right?

      • I stand by what I said. “Rape” refers to places too.
        To rape: to plunder (a place); despoil:
        The logging operation raped a wide tract of forest without regard for the environmental impact of their harvesting practices.

  5. Thank you for being our voice of reason in the darkness in this ridiculous quest to stamp out historical markers/icons. To the Mayor’s question of the 10 year old girl, the father could respond that while Lee felt loyalty to his native state, Virginia, he was satisfied with the war’s result, the abolition of slavery, and worked diligently to reincorporate the south into the union after his surrender.
    How shall I respond to may daughter’s question, “dad, why did they suddenly tear down that historical monument that crowned the square for all those years that I remember even as a young child?” Followed by “Isn’t that the kind of thing that ISIS did in its ludicrous destruction of ancient, historical markers in the Middle East–weren’t those acts based in hatred? Is the destruction of the monument at Lee Circle based in hatred too?”

    • The man was kin to George Washington, and he is the archetype of what a gentleman should be. We bury America’s veterans in Arlington Cemetery, AKA ROBERT E LEE’S FARM, with Arlington House being a National Memorial to him. This complete lack of respect for Robert E. Lee and the other leaders of the South is a very modern phenomenon that results from an utter lack of historical knowledge, and/or communism. These lunatics have been fed a twisted narrative devoid of both facts and context. Just like ISIS. The priceless al-Lat lion statue in Palmyra was older than Jesus. A group of ignorant fanatics with sledgehammers showed up a few weeks ago and said that the statue represents something bad that they don’t agree with. Now it is gone forever. Exactly like Landrieu’s protesters demanding the demolition of our statues.

  6. “At our best, we are a place with diversity is our strength, a place where all are welcome. A place where symbols should inspire and include, not divide. A place where we celebrate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, not death not war, not slavery,” Landrieu said.

    Remove the statues. It’s the right thing to do.

    • D. Turgeon,

      Saccharine twaddle.

      We shouldn’t memorialize war? New Orleans has many war memorials. We play host to the National WWII Museum. Of course we should memorialize major wars where Americans died. If Landrieu wants to raze every war memorial in the city, he’s a loon.

      As for division, what seems to be creating the greatest division here is Landrieu’s unilateral decision to push to remove historical Civil War monuments. Landrieu could have instead opted to foster inclusiveness by creating better memorials to, let’s say, the Civil Rights Movement. Instead, this is what we got (and I’m going to keep on posting this until everyone gets the point here):

      • What the heck is this? It looks like an umbrella that doesn’t protect you from the sun or rain.Sort of like Landreius administration.

      • The Lee statue is not a war memorial; neither is the the WW II museum. It’s a memorial to a man and to a lost cause, one the city would be better off without. Memorializing wars fought in defence of freedom is hardly the same as memorializing a war fought in defence of slavery. I like your idea of better memorials to the civil rights movement, though. Tivoli Circle would be just the spot.

        • D. Turgeon,

          Memorializing a war where Louisianans died in defense of their state is the same as memorializing any other war. Young men throughout history have answered the call to arms without regard for politics; it is a very modern assumption that somehow fighting for a side in a war is a blanket endorsement for every cause the government stands for.

          My point is that Landrieu’s blanket statement about not “memorializing” war is childish, and the notion that a statue of Lee or Beauregard somehow commemorates “death” or “slavery” strikes me as incredibly ignorant. No, we definitely should not remove and mar antique monuments because of changing social mores. Other nations don’t do that; neither should we.

          I’m glad you agree that we need better Civil Rights monuments, but that’s something we should have seen apart from removing Confederate war memorials. If Landrieu doesn’t give a damn, and nobody is raising private money, what do you really expect to come of this?

          • You can spin that “defense of their state” line all you want. Lee and others may have “answered the call to arms” mindlessly, but that is surely no cause for their celebration. The central issue and cause for the civil war was slavery, and those who fought to enable the continuation of slavery are not worthy of our celebration. Sorry to disagree.

          • “Memorializing a war where Louisianans died in defense of their state is the same as memorializing any other war.”

            I’m sorry can you point me to something memorializing Unionists in Louisiana? Those are the people who defended their country.

    • “Diversity is our strength and all are welcome, so remove the stuff I don’t like.”

      Because tolerance, or something.

      Mitch knows that any stick is good enough to beat a dog.

  7. Perhaps Morial ‘ s ignorance of the history of Beauregard and Davis illustrate the point that monuments do not educate, they commemerate. They show what the power structure of a given body politic values at the point they were first elected. To keep them in that commemorative position neither educates nor shows the values of the body politic now. Bring them down. Put them in the confederate museum on Tivoli Circle where they could be displayed in context. They can then be viewed as part of the skein of New Orleanian history.

    • Blair,

      Morial’s ignorance only reflects Morial’s ignorance. If you see a statue of a historical figure, your first inclination should be to discover who that person was — not draw snap conclusions that aren’t merited by the facts. I would advise all New Orleanians to truly study the Civil War, to understand the people involved and the national division that underlay the conflict.

      Finally, I’m just going to say this in all caps because nobody seems to get it:

      THE CIVIL WAR MUSEUM IS TINY AND BROKE. IT CANNOT HOST A BUNCH OF GIGANTIC MONUMENTS. IF YOU’VE NEVER BEEN THERE, DON’T MENTION IT.

      • I ride past it every day and have visited several times. The lee statue would be a good fit on the upriver corner of the yard. Especially if the badly constructed lean to would be removed.
        If the city decides to move it, a suitable place should be provided by the city. At the cost to the city.
        It seems that the Beauregard statue would be too large. I’m not sure.
        The White League Memorial should be destroyed with sledgehammer, preserving only the original message. That should be in one of the museums on the national mall. Perhaps the newest one…
        gee, you got kinda nasty kinda fast. No need for that. Remember that assuming “makes an ASS out of U and ME”

    • The fact that Morial passed by this statue of Beauregard almost everyday on his way to Jesuit and didn’t know anything about him is telling me how stupid he was, is and always will be. The fact that he passed this way everyday and didn’t feel the need to change his path because of his being “offended” tells me ….he wasn’t offended. Grow up Marc. Statues don’t offend people. bad Mayors do.

  8. New Orleans has been taken over by the Morlocks of H.G. Wells, who seem to know absolutely nothing about the city they find themselves in. Attacking our history is both un-American and morally wrong, and not one of these useless politicians knows history well enough to be qualified to make this kind of decision, even if removing our history were somehow a valid course of action, which it isn’t. Those statues and street names are damn near sacred. Let them dot the landscape of New Orleans East and the 9th Ward with statues of Norman C. Francis and every other undeserving person they can imagine. Landrieu and the City Council are public nuisances.

    Owen, although you are wrong about the flag, you are right that this can of worms goes as far as they want it to. Nearly every historical figure of prominence in our city, and our country, can be painted in a negative light due to the progression (or regression) of social mores, but it is pure left wing idiocy to flip through the history book and point out how bad everyone was when judged by today’s standards, which didn’t even exist at the time. I want the statues and street names saved from the radicals.

  9. Moses,

    Oh believe me, I’d love to do that. That’s why I call Morial a narcissist. I can’t think of another New Orleans mayor with such a big head that he would emblazon him name in brass on “sidewalk improvements.”

  10. ultimateliberal,

    Thanks. Unfortunately, I don’t think the people pushing for this would be satisfied with moving the memorials to another public space. It would also be a logistical nightmare anyway; these are massive monuments, especially the Lee Memorial. We don’t have the money to pay for rearranging monuments, to say nothing of creating new ones. And let’s not forget the type of monuments Landrieu thinks are acceptable:

  11. susann,

    It’s all style and no substance. I don’t think anybody in New Orleans looks at the Lee Monument and honestly thinks that the city pines for the days of the Confederacy. If they do, there are bigger problems underlying that belief that won’t be remedied by removing historic monuments. In the meantime, Landrieu doesn’t have to answer as many questions about crime and bad streets. A distraction.

  12. Jonathan,

    Respectfully, I think your point of view is extreme and doesn’t reflect the truth of the Civil War. These “Confederates on display” mainly just fought for their states, as did many Louisianans together with young men from throughout the south. They were loyal to their states and answered the call to arms. The two generals depicted, Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard, both actually opposed slavery, and each sought to better the condition of freed slaves after the war. I think people who don’t know this history and can’t be bothered to learn it are in no moral or intellectual position to call for the removal of Civil War memorials.

    This is also why I think your analogies are extreme to the point of being offensive. Lee is not comparable to Hitler, Mengele, Osama Bin Laden or Kim Jung-Un, and I don’t think many of our “fellow citizens” feel otherwise. This issue is being pushed by Mayor Landrieu. It did not rise out of the black community with press released and protests. Previous black mayors and majority black councils simply ignored Civil War monuments. If these statues were really considered to be the equivalent of monuments to Hitler, I assure you that this issue would have been addressed before and the public outcry would have been deafening.

    There’s simply no need to scrub the public sphere of monuments that have stood for generations in this way. As I said, explanatory plaques would be sufficient if some modern reinterpretation is needed.

  13. If these type of arguments (“it’s just too much trouble”, “it’s a bandwagon”, “if they’d only read the same history book I read”) are accepted as a valid defense of statues honoring the Confederacy, then I guess we should just keep flying the Confederate battle flag over state capitals too. I find it especially funny that Owen used the word “ignorance” three times to refer to the advocates on the other side of the argument. Yet I hear many of the people defending these statues (and the battle flag) claim with a straight face that neither the Civil War nor the Confederate battle flag had *anything* to do with oppression of African-Americans. You know that saying about stones in glass houses…

  14. Owen, What a breath of fresh air. Thank you for being one of the most – if not THE most – sensible voices in this whole debacle. Keep it rolling!

  15. While I commend the notion of removing public symbols of hate… it is also imperative to redefine this site as a positive symbol for our future generations. In the spirit of compromise and progress I offer up this one kernel of an idea which could further the interests of the whole New Orleans community: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10155759859340621&set=a.10152426458410621.961294.852175620&type=

    The entire American experience is re-examined under the guidance of the Liberian palava hut. The call for peace and reconcilliation is spent spacially upwards into the heavens as the ever eternal flame of peace is never vanquished… Can we re-frame Lee Circle and leave the General rightly on site? Repurposing the older elements in new directions…Nobody denies that reconciliation is tantamount as a sentiment for all. The palava/peace hut is a traditional building that has been part of Liberian culture for many generations. Although these huts can still be seen around the countryside, during their civil war its significance was lost and its presence ignored even though everyone knows its purpose is to serve as a place to resolve conflict and come together in peace.
    The huts draw upon a generations-old means to reconcile the wounds of war and solve conflicts independently of the courts. These structures are literally open to all sides equally and provide a neutral meeting place where members of a community can hear and impart justice. In this context, the win-lose rulings of corrupt courts can transform into win-win solutions for many civil cases. General Lee empowered his freed slaves to return back to Liberia and this symbolic transfusion is coming home as a metaphorical gift of peace being replanted back on our American states. Unity for all.

  16. While a bit off topic, here’s yet another example of the idiocy of our mayor. Landrieu said murders (which are way up in 2015 so far) were the lowest in 2014 since 1971. Well, the criminologist Peter Scharf (of LSUHSC) pointed out that in 1971 New Orleans had a population of over 500,000 and in 2014 the population was less than 400,000. So per capita the murder rate in 2014 was much higher than 1971. Based on Landrieu’s statements over the past few weeks, whether he is speaking of statues or crime, his blatant idiocy comes shining through.

  17. Owen,
    perhaps you had a long day and simply were too unfocused to respond to the
    points that I made in my comment with a level of comprehension and
    sophistication that one expects from an attorney trained in the art of arguing.
    For that, I will give you the benefit of the doubt as we all have our bad days.
    However, since racial injustice is an issue of such importance to so many people in this city and given your responsibility as a columnist for a
    respected local media outlet, I hope in the future that you get some rest so
    that you can bring your A game to future discussions on this issue, as what you
    have proffered with your response to my comment was pretty amateur. It’s almost as weak as your column!

    • I bet we could search the depths of the internet for Jonathan Henderson’s comments on this statue of Lee and find a whopping zero made before June 17th. Just another sheep looking to hitch his internet wagon to, while doing no real work to improve society.

  18. “To the extent Landrieu and his supporters believe that Confederate monuments send a wrong, divisive message, educating people of the fuller history of the Civil War is crucial. There is also little preventing the city from simply customizing plaques to clarify that the monuments are merely historic commemorations of important Southern figures in the Civil War and in no way imply support for the Confederate cause.”

    Now, either you don’t know what you are talking about or you are a liar. As a native New Orleanian, it’s very clear what those who are in favor of leaving all this alone are up to. They talk about history and Southern pride, and all this nonsense without a care as to how it offends and more to the point WHO it offends. These are monuments to hatred of freedom and the emancipation of blacks and continued defiance of the Civil Rights act, period. They are a not so gentle reminder that even though ‘we’ lost the Civil War, we never lost power and control, and that blacks are still under the thumb of white oppression ‘down south.’ Then, these same sore losers are in an uproar as they bitch about what next, ad nauseam…as if the offense regarding the Confederate battle flag displayed on a government building and statues honoring the traitors of the Civil War are okay because it’s ‘historical.’

    You want to niggle over Morial’s statements about whether or not these men had ‘ties’ to New Orleans. Who cares? They were ALL on the wrong side of history and deserve no monuments for their bravery in their gloriously ill-conceived fight for slavery in a war that nearly destroyed this great nation.

    Our city makes it plainly clear that black history is not important.
    Look, I am no fan of Mitch Landrieu but, this is something that is long overdue.

    • Michael,

      As I’ve said before, the idea that the display of the Confederate flag on a statehouse is “historical” is simply not true; they were put up in opposition to the civil rights movement. That’s not akin to memorials for deceased Confederate leaders. My continued problem with the line of argument that you and other have made is that it reduces everyone who fought for the south as “traitors” who were simply fighting to preserve slavery. That’s just bad history. They were on the wrong side of history, but they fought in a bloody conflict to decide the most important unresolved issues of our nation’s founding, and they did so believing that they were showing utmost fidelity by answering their own state’s call to arms.

      You can’t judge it all by modern standards; if you do, even the Union comes off terribly. The Union would have agreed to preserve slavery to stave off war (at least that was its official position). Many of its own leaders were either slave owners or had no problems with slavery. The lion’s share still believed in white supremacy regardless of their views on slavery. However, when you start judging historical figures by modern standards, everyone comes off badly. And the answer to that is to ask more people to study history, not to indulge small readings and snap judgments. This is what I mean when I say that ignorance drives the movement to remove these monuments.

      It is certainly true that the south historically had a great many “lost cause” adherents, and many of those probably looked wistfully at Confederate monuments, but those days are on the wane and the bulk of supporters who I see advocating for the monuments are not neo-Confederates or racists, but people who don’t want to see our landscape razed and antique monuments molested. And for them, Landrieu’s proposal — one that was not brought by previous black mayors — seems unnecessary and divisive.

      I agree that the city has made it clear that black history is not that important, but it has done so by having very lousy memorials to the Civil Rights movement. That’s something that has nothing to do with Lee, Beauregard, or Jefferson. If we wanted better monuments to black leaders, we’d already have them, and we wouldn’t need to disturb any existing monuments to do it. That’s why this is such a sideshow.

      • The North didn’t secede and the North didn’t start the war. The South did. Thus, the issue is why the south seceded. The South seceded for economic and social reasons, including preservation of slavery (and cheap labor, unfair tariffs, and their social system of quasi nobility). After all, the only substantive difference in the 2 constitutions was the affirmative recognition of the right to slavery in the confederate constitution. You can also read comments from prominent confederates at the time and it was full of references to slavery. The confederacy was evil. It’s history, but nothing to memorialize. And yet, we have more important issues than rounding up all the statues of confederate generals. And you can argue that some of them “redeemed themselves” to some extent anyway.

      • Quote: “My continued problem with the line of argument that you and other have made is that it reduces everyone who fought for the south as “traitors” who were simply fighting to preserve slavery.” That’s because they were. Oh, you can cloak it, as many of them did and many do to this day, in notions of ‘state’s rights’ or loyalty to their home state over loyalty to their country. The fact is they fought, to a man, to preserve a system of slavery — period. For that, they deserve no high, public commemoration, especially in a city where the ancestors of a majority of the population were the victims of their, and your, obfuscation. They were silent then, for they had no public voice or power. Today, we have the opportunity to correct that grievance and to ensure that high, public monuments represent our best nature, not our worst. It’s time for them to go.

        • There probably wouldn’t have been a Civil War if the hot-headed pro-slavery types in South Carolina along with the strident abolitionists could have kept themselves in check somewhat. Only a few people in the northern states were all worked up against slavery and only a few of the Southerners were all worked up for it. The politicians and the wealthy elites backing them in the South managed to get the rest of the population caught up in things but what the “other 98 percent” in the south was thinking about was their homes and families. If strident modern types can’t see that, U.S. Grant could, at least, and offered Lee generous surrender terms. Neither he nor Lincoln nor Andrew Johnson were the ones out to punish the south for rebelling like the postwar Republican congress was. Then, Lee, for his part, took him up and tried to do what he could to bring about a reconciliation and urge die-hard types not to continue with hostilities on a guerrilla basis, as some were aiming to do. Yes, Lee did come to receive a near-sainted status in the years following the war, but all records indicate that he detested that and also did feel much regret, though he was in fact shy and did not want to talk about the war. The truth is that there are definitely multiple layers of complexity with him and the Civil War story, but nonetheless he remains a hugely important person in our whole nation’s history. Find any historian who would say otherwise. New Orleans should feel honored to be having an authentic century-old monument to him.

          • For some reason, you seem to be missing the issue. Of course Lee, Beauregard and Davis were “hugely important” historical figures. No one disputes that. The issue at point is whether it is appropriate for them to be memorialized in this fashion. None of these historical figures are deserving of the high, public honour conferred by these statues. Furthermore, there is a sizeable segment of the population of New Orleans who finds their presence insulting, so no, they do not feel “honoured” to have them, much as you think they “should”.

          • People raised funds privately, actually, at the time to construct these monuments, as they were built with private funds, not public funds. The donors were the ones who made the decision about who was deserving of being honored and memorialized. The question is whether the cost and hassle of dismantling these structures and possibly bringing about the loss of these historical objects for future generations is all worth it and accomplish anything positive. It isn’t and it won’t.

          • You really do not want to understand people’s objections to these statues, do you? These monuments were erected on public, not private, property, where they stand today. They could only have been so erected with the permission and co-operation of the city government. To many, there is no question whatsoever about the value of their removal, and the positive effects to come from same. If you cannot see that, then you are willfully blind. They are powerful symbols of human oppression. There is no place in the 21st century for the continued existence of public monuments of this sort.

    • How are we defying the Civil Rights Act. And although you love to pick a winner and loser of the war. I contend none of us won anything. I find there is less oppression “down south” in 2015 then in the north where racial unrest is prevalent. There is no right side or wrong side of history, there is only history of events unless you are referring to some who won’t discuss the FULL history of these men remembered by statue. Then those people are indeed on the WRONG side of anything.

      • To say “there is no right side or wrong side of history” is to abandon any moral context to our view of past events. I see no problem is discussing the “full history” of these or any other men. I do, however, see a problem in commemorizing, in high, public fashion, the leaders of a violent struggle to immoral ends. Historical events are always fraught with complexity as are men, but that does not mean we should not take a moral stance towards those events or the actions of the men involved. To do otherwise is to abandon our common humanity. To honour these men in this fashion is to honour ALL of their actions and their beliefs; statues do not pick and choose which of a man’s actions or beliefs to honour, as Owen would suggest. We can only judge men’s actions and beliefs in their totality, and apply our moral compass accordingly. None of these men are worthy of the high, public honour bestowed by these statutes.

  19. If we are renaming streets, I cast my vote for the return of Berlin Street and getting rid of General Pershing street. We have too many Generals (9), We even have one Marshal.

  20. Blair,

    The “yard?” What “yard?” It’s a small rectangular museum with a small bit of landscaping out front. Everything else belongs to the Ogden. And I stand by my statement; there’s simply no room. The Lee monument stands 60 feet tall, 7 feet of which is the statue itself. The Jefferson and Beauregard monuments are also very large. There is absolutely nowhere to put them in the Civil War Museum. You’d have to be blind to think otherwise and have actually been there on multiple occasions.

    I didn’t mean to be nasty, but seriously, the continued claims that the Civil War Museum can handle these behemoths is patently ridiculous! If you want I can get a statement from the curator on this, but I know exactly what it will be — there is no way that there is remotely sufficient room. Even you seem to be sheepishly admitting this.

    As for the Liberty Place Monument, I do agree that it was an offensive monument. However, the city has relegated it to an inconspicuous location and installed an explanatory plaque that both specifically repudiates the original message and memorializes the Metropolitans who died fighting the White League. Personally, I think that’s sufficient, but if there were a museum willing to take it, I think that would be appropriate as well. It’s really the other monuments that are of primary interest to me, since they were simply memorials to deceased southern leaders.

    • Look, there’s no reason these monuments to the follies of the past cannot be relocated to a historical setting, possibly in a public park. There, they could be appreciated for their art and for their historical import. There is no reason they need to remain occupying sites of municipal importance, testaments to the idiocy of racism.

  21. Excellent article. We need to prevent history from being erased, hence we become a nation of book burners…

  22. butownboy,

    Exactly. Passing a statue of a historical figure usually makes me want to figure out who they are, not just make unfounded assumptions. And speaking from a position of ignorance is indeed rather stupid, and undercuts any argument that he legitimately found the statue to be offensive.

  23. Mr. Coutteges and Mr. Henderson,

    I actually have several concerns about this whole battle and the current reliving of the Civil War:

    One is my concern over current racial relations in New Orleans, and I fear that the current debate is exacerbating tensions rather than unifying the New Orleans community. Mitch HAD to know that any attempt to change anything in the New Orleans landscape would upset a hug segment of the population, who would turn their venom on the perpetrator of that threat, be it a developer, the mayor, or – I fear – the African American community. I would have much preferred for him to have couched this move as a Tricentennial Project to resurrect something new to celebrate our present and future, rather than a symbolic gesture to salve old wounds. It would have been a more unifying move with the same result. (I will confess, however to a preference to keeping the Brandenburg Gate as a grim reminder of Hitler’s plans, as opposed to China’s decision to destroy their former, repudiated culture in the Cultural Revolution. I also suspect that white New Orleanians’ devotion to the monuments lies more in their familiarity than in their subjects…But I digress.)

    The other concern is whether symbolic gestures are superseding — and distracting from – needed substantive changes in conditions that continue to oppress the poorest segments of the African American community in New Orleans: unaffordable healthcare, poor education, unavailable groceries, substandard housing, low wage jobs, and gun violence, gun violence, gun violence. If we divert funds from addressing those problems to moving monuments, then proclaim we have demonstrated a new New Orleans, that is a sham, indeed.

    Finally, I worry about labeling everything that has had any negative connotation as a racist symbol. The Confederate flag clearly was a racist rallying point even today and it is offensive anywhere it appears. Period. But the fleur di lis, which a historian now reports, was used as a brand on fleeing slaves? That may be one of its many appearances historically, but in the present day it has been a unifying symbol for all New Orleanians — a sign that we are devoted to this city and to its sports team. In the same way that I would hate to see every church denude itself of its crosses because burning them was used to terrorize Blacks in the Jim Crow South, I would hate to see us seek to label everything that has come to have quite a different meaning with some old, repugnant connotation.

    I am afraid that this whole debate has taken on a very different tone than the one in South Carolina where nine crushed families exhibited a far greater degree of forgiveness than I could have mustered for a racist who had killed their closest kin the day before. And the city and state responded in kind. I feel like our demands for apologies for the actions of long-dead white ancestors and our easy-to-give apologies have taken our eyes off the ball on how we need to be responsible for our own actions today in bringing better lives to all our citizens and working for reconciliation.

  24. The Venn diagram overlap between rebel flag and confederate statue defenders and racists is considerable.

    We live in a City that is majority Black. Yet we have monuments to figures who fought in a war that was fought over states’ rights to allow their White citizens to enslave Blacks.

    How often do we hear that Blacks need to stop living in the past and get past slavery and Jim Crow? Yet the same people saying this seem to have a lot of trouble getting past the “War of Northern Aggression” and the symbols thereof. Seem a little hypocritical to you?

    Owen, you think the supporters of leaving the monuments would be just as supportive if the roundabout at St Charles and Howard was named Malcolm X Circle? Just as Robert E Lee is a significant national figure that is divisive yet revered by a substantial segment of the population, Malcolm X is a significant national figure that is divisive yet revered by a substantial segment of the population who certainly is more popular in New Orleans than Lee.

  25. Craig,

    That’s a different ball of wax. Flying the Confederate flag — a flag for a government that no longer exists — implies something more than simply keeping statues and memorials in place. Moreover, the Confederate flag was generally raised over state courthouses and in other public forums during the 50’s and 60’s signifying opposition to civil rights. I definitely think it is distinguishable.

    As for pointing out that some people have denied that the Civil War had anything to do with slavery, reflecting ignorance of the causes of the war, I’ll readily concede the point. Slavery was clearly the primary issue leading up to the war. Sure, in a broader sense the north and south had grown apart socially and economically, and certainly the south believed that it had a right to secede, but if not for the issue of slavery — prominent in most of the speeches of the era on both sides — there would not have been Civil War. Those who claim otherwise really ought to re-read some of the primary sources from the time. Slavery was clearly the elephant in the room.

    However, I don’t think that interpretation is any less “ignorant” than the view that all southerners were simply fighting for the singular goal of maintaining slavery, and were also “traitors.” Surely there’s a middle ground here, and that middle ground accepts a balanced view of the war that doesn’t require marring antique monuments.

    • Quote: “Slavery was clearly the primary issue leading up to the war”; “if not for the issue of slavery — prominent in most of the speeches of the era on both sides — there would not have been Civil War”. Those statements are simply not compatible with the argument for maintaining prominent memorials to the violent struggle to sustain the political and social system of slavery. Yes, that WAS the singular goal of the conflict, whether or not the instigators and participants were willing to admit that to themselves or to others. It appears Faulkner’s point about the past not being past in the South is as relevant as ever.

      • What do the letters of the rank and file soldiers reflect? That they were going into battle with maintaining slavery as their main concern? No. They fought to defend their homes and families more than anything, given that after the initial hostilities Lincoln called up the army essentially to invade the southern states (where the large majority of the action took place), which I’d say was a pretty natural and understandable reaction. The oversimplification of issues that it seems that the people defending the mayor’s halfway thought out initiative is becoming very tiresome.

        • We are discussing the public monuments to Lee, Beauregard, Davis and the White League, not ones to “the rank and file soldiers” or to Lincoln. Please stay on topic.

    • The Lee monument was dedicated Feb. 22, 1884. The Davis statue was dedicated in 1911. The monument to General Beauregard was placed in 1915. Every time, there was a parade and a huge crowd. Davis himself, until he died in 1889, attended every Confederate memorial dedication, even though he had U.S. citizenship stripped from him (as did Lee). I argue that these monuments are a symbol of post-Reconstruction more than of the war itself, which would mean that they represent a period in history when those in power were working towards strengthening Jim Crow laws and disenfranchising blacks even more so than in the 1950s and 60s when the Confederate battle flag started being flown above state capitol buildings. Morial’s ignorance may be disheartening, but so is yours. To me, these monuments represent the redoubled efforts of white supremacists to show who was really boss after they “lost” the war. Being ok with removing the battle flag, but not these monuments, is like getting rid of one burning tree when the whole forest is on fire. If there is a way to commemorate a more balanced view on our history without obliterating its memorials, great, but telling people to just do nothing means you are actually urging people not to learn and face some truths about our history that have long been obfuscated by the type of people who erected those monuments in the first place. There was period after the war in which blacks began to have more freedom and then that was reversed by decades of oppression in which monuments such as these were allowed to exist in the first place. Unfortunately, I don’t think these monuments really have anything to do with who those complicated men were, but more to do with their near-deification after the war by their followers.

      • Bananaslug, Yours is one of the very few truly insightful comments on this topic and actually speaks to the salient points at hand. Please write a letter to the editor and don’t waste your talents mucking about in these forums! I agree that Lee Circle is not a monument to a man, it’s a monument to Jim Crow white supremacy and should not hold a prominent place in a 21st Century New Orleans. We can do better!

      • That analysis doesn’t hold water. You have right there that the Beauregard monument wasn’t erected until 1915, i.e. when the Civil War and Reconstruction years would have been a distant memory and also when Jim Crow laws had already been instituted for a good while.

        • Please refer to his or her point that the statues “represent a period in history when those in power were working towards strengthening Jim Crow laws and disenfranchising blacks even more so than in the 1950s and 60s when the Confederate battle flag started being flown above state capitol buildings”. You are missing the entire point of his analysis, which is that the history of the statues themselves and their erection is as morally objectionable as the history they seek to glorify.

  26. Chris,

    Looks expensive. Not sure who’s supposed to pay for it. Also, as an attorney, I’m not sure I like the message about providing some sort of Liberian alternative to the “win-lose rulings of corrupt courts.” The legal system already has mediation for promoting negotiated settlements; I don’t see this as adding anything other than a slap in the face to members of my profession.

    • The legal system provides for the lesser of two evils… A civil discussion before entering the legal system is far less expensive than using the courts? Maybe the profession needs a slap in the face… we incarcerate so many and very few return to civil society corrected and rehabilitated?

      • And I thought the incarceration was in place for deeds done not for a place of rehabilitation. This misguided excuse is about as believable as saying we need more schools to keep criminals out of jail. A criminal is a criminal whether he skipped class 100 times or he wears a three piece suit. Now if you said there are psychiatrists and ministers in jail cells daily trying to reason with inmates and explaining what they did was wrong, maybe I could believe the ‘rehabilitation ” reasoning. But playing basketball, lifting weights and conversing with other criminals on what they did and how they did it doesn’t seem beneficial or rehabilitating. I would rather see all in solitary for a shorter period of time and nothing but thinking about was was going on outside while they waste their lives alone in a cinder block cell .

  27. Alonzo,

    He’s obfuscating, obviously. Landrieu has no problem with using statistics in a very misleading fashion. Obviously raw numbers mean nothing — you need per capita figures. But he’ll run with whatever gives him the best sound byte.

  28. Jonathan,

    There is nothing of substance in this reply. It’s all insults and snark.

    When I think a comment is weak, I may say so, but in either case I still respond to it on the merits. I think your failure to do so here speaks volumes.

    • If your system wasn;t so slow to recive responses, you would already know that I did respond. Your problem is that you hide behind your computer and insult all sorts of people whenver you want and can’t take the heat when you get pushed back against.

      • Its so much easier to say he didn’t bring his “A’ game than to explain why you feel this way. And this coming from you hiding behind his computer throwing insults at people.

  29. Please
    bear with me while I break it down for you and provide my retorts to your statements
    (in quotations, and in some cases paraphrased for the sake of brevity):

    1. “truth of the Civil War”-the truth is that the Confederates lost
    the war and failed in their treasonous attempt to break from the Union.

    2. “fought for their states rights” Yes, but the state right that
    actually motivated the South to wage war was the right to profit off of free
    labor aka enslaved Africans to build help build the wealth of the white
    aristocracy. Slaves were traded as a commodity in the French Quarter at the
    Slave Exchanges and it was a financial win-win for all those involved.

    3. “many Louisianans and young men from throughout the south” Yes,
    but you know who didn’t have to fight? The rich plantation owners. Kind of like
    the Vietnam war when unless you were rich and politically connected you could
    dodge the draft like George W. Bush. Besides, once the Confederate elite set
    the war in motion and there was no turning back, those young people were left
    with no choice but to fight regardless of what their beliefs about slavery
    were. Perhaps it was their lack of belief in what they were fighting for that
    led to the south losing the war. You know, like the Vietnam war when so many
    young American servicemen figured out that they were killing other humans and
    risking their own lives for a cause that ultimately was proven to be driven by
    the political ambitions of a treasoness, and ultimately disgraced President.

    4. “loyalty to their states, answered the call to arms” Still Doesn’t
    make it right. Hitler’s youth were loyal, the Japanese kids answered the call
    to arms. Heck, they even used their own bodies as weapons against the United
    States.

    5. “both actually opposed slavery” Okay, so you’re saying somehow
    they opposed slavery but still rose to the top of the Confederate Army. If they
    opposed slavery, there is no way in hell the elite southern rich would have
    allowed them to lead their fight to maintain their human trafficking financed
    economy. And even if they were opposed, which they weren’t, they still
    committed treason against the United States. So basically what you are saying
    is that it is okay to you that in high profile public places throughout New
    Orleans, we honor treasonous individuals that fought to support a system that
    they didn’t even believe in in the first place? Are you sure they didn’t
    believe in slavery maybe just a tincy little wincy?

    6. “sought to better condition of” Aww, what nice people. How can
    anyone doubt that the generals in the bloodiest war in history on this
    continent didnt have a soft place in their hearts for those poor African
    people. Or, maybe the fact that they weren’t immediately hung for treason
    caused them to become born again Christians and thank Jesus for forgiving their
    sins. Or, perhaps it was just bad for business given how they had just lost
    that war and everything.

    Will finish with the rest later. But in the meantime, chew on this:
    My great great grandfather was a UNION SOLDIER who was captured by the
    Confederate Army and imprisoned at the notorious Andersonville prison.
    My dad was also a fierce abolitionist. I AM DEEPLY OFFENDED and have
    ALWAYS been by the Confederate flag and memorials honoring and
    glorifying treasonous Confederate Presidents and Generals that fought
    for the slavemasters.

    Also,
    I did not compare anyone to Hitler. I made a hypothetical and chose
    Hitler and because he represented pure
    evil to white American men such as my grandfathers. he also studied the Confederacy for ideas on how to isolate and then kill the Jews and applied what he learned. There is no
    way in hell that supporters of Hitler would have succeeded
    in erecting a monument and statue honoring and glorifying them anywhere
    in New Orleans, especially in the 20th century. The white power elite in
    New Orleans would never let that happen and if they did the federal
    government would have intervened and those memorials would have come
    down immediately. Why? Because it would have been deeply, deeply
    offensive to white Americans. But when it comes to monuments and statues
    glorifying leaders that deeply, deeply offend black people because of
    the horrors their people were subjected to by the very nature of being
    enslaved by the Confederacy, black people had no say in whether the
    statues would go up or then come down. Even as recently as the 1950’s
    these memorials were being put up in symbolic acts of defiance against
    equal rights and segregation. Because of RACISM RACISM RACISM. And white people who claim to not be
    racist but argue against removing these symbols of white domination over
    blacks despite the fact that blacks want them removed, really need to
    understand how they are directly contributing to the racial tension
    that exists today. They are SUBVERTING THE CIVIL RIGHTS movement and
    everything it stands for. And that means you. Finally,

    1958: White New Orleans City Councilman offended by nude
    statue on display in City Park of Hercules the Archer by world famous French
    artist , HAS IT REMOVED. Black people offended by statue of Confederate
    General on display at the entrance to City Park, tough shit. And since blacks
    were still banned from entering the park at all, the Confederate statue was a cruel
    reminder that they were not welcomed.

  30. I generally enjoy your columns, but I’m not a fan of the “Find one person who doesnt know what they’re talking about and use that to generalize the entire side of an argument” fallacy. So Morial’s an idiot. Great. That doesn’t mean that every single person who wants the monuments taken down doesn’t understand history and is just being blinded from “real issues” by this “diversion”.

    Maybe some of us want the statues down because we dont want to idolize what these men stood for, regardless of their connections to the city.

    And do you really think a tiny plaque on a monument like Lee’s statue is going to give it the “proper context”? “Yeah, he was a traitor and all, so hey, here’s an 80+ foot tall statue towering over a city where half the inhabitants wouldn’t have equal rights as the other half had he won.”

    Likewise, I also dont like that you jumped on the hype train that assumes that just because a historian noted the FDL has a troubled past that it means he’s calling for it to be banned. “Even the ubiquitous symbol of the city, the fleur-de-lis, came under fire.” No, it didn’t come under fire. Lots of people who are mad about the statues potentially coming down over-reacted and falsely interpreted it as some call to ban it, which it wasnt. All the furor over the article about the FDL came from the pro-statue crowd – there was no anti-FDL movement, ever. So using this made up, phony controversy acting like there’s some slippery slope that taking the statues down will lead us to is a bad argument.

    • daybreaker2,

      Come on, though – Morial is a former mayor of New Orleans and the current head of the National Urban League. It was a major gaffe, and it feeds into my argument that this entire debate spawns from ignorance of the Civil War. Perhaps that was an extreme example and not really representative, but it goes in the direction of what I’ve been saying.

      I still say reducing Lee to a “traitor” who fought for slavery is bad history, and that if impression needs to be allayed, it can be done with an explanatory plaque.

      As for the fleur-de-lis issue, I referred to that as an outgrowth of Suber’s arguments at the council meeting. He wanted a broader removal of monuments and memorials, which led many to think exactly where this would end. There was already evidence of a slippery slope, and I disagree with the suggestion that it was inappropriate to highlight that.

  31. I doubt it will go down in history at all. Removing four statues isnt quite the seismic historical event you seem to think it is.

  32. Sorry, but terming the removal of the confederate flag from government buildings as “Reasonable” really casts doubt on whether you get it. It was outrageous that the flag was there in the first place. It’s inappropriate not just as a symbol of anti-civil rights, but as a symbol of a horror called the confederacy. For government to endorse that, which it does by flying the flag is outrageous. I don’t have a big issue with your main thesis about all of the other monuments, but confederacy was nasty economically and socially, and that should be recognized.

    • Overbrook,

      Point taken. I completely agree that it was outrageous that the flag was ever put up to begin with to symbolically oppose civil rights and defend Jim Crow. I was not intending to downplay that.

      I also do agree that the Confederacy was wrong across the board and deserved to lose the war — that should definitely be recognized and I don’t think that most of the people defending the monuments would disagree.

    • The fact that all these governments put the flag up seems to indicate that not everyone felt the Confederacy was a horror, right? Could there actually be two sides to this issue? There are actually a great many New Orleanians that aren’t so contemptuous of the South, but you may not have heard from them because many of them have moved outside of the city limits to St. Tammany, St. Bernard, Jefferson Parish, and so on, and are part of the “Greater New Orleans Area” now. In fact, if you venture outside the palace walls you will find these people for hundreds of miles in every direction. The problem as I see it is that people within the city limits aren’t being exposed to Southern viewpoints or lifestyles and are being told to hate their own history. Luckily for you, I have prepared a treat. Behold, the great Civil War historian Shelby Foote:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9J8P6WfS7w

  33. D. Turgeon,

    They didn’t do so “mindlessly;” there’s merit to the idea of fighting for the defense of your home regardless of how you feel about the politics surrounding it. That’s how it’s been for most of time. War in general isn’t something to “celebrate,” but it is definitely something to remember, and I think this movement to remove historic monuments to Confederate leaders gets in the way of that.

    Also, while the chief catalyst for the war was slavery, it’s worth noting that the Union didn’t abolish slavery until after the war and Lincoln’s official position had been that he would gladly maintain slavery if it meant avoiding war. I think these reductionist views of the Civil War are limiting and a poor basis for hauling away monuments.

    • Poppycock. As a military officer, the man (Lee) took an oath to his country, not to his state. He broke that oath when he became a rebel to his country. You can spin this all you like, but there is nothing to celebrate in a statue clothed in a rebel uniform, facing north to confront his “enemies”. You may wish to live in the nineteenth century, but the rest of us want to progress into the twenty-first.

    • There is no merit whatsoever in fighting for the defence of your home, when your concept of ‘home’ involves the enslavement of a huge portion of the population. The efforts of Lincoln and others to avoid the massive slaughter and destruction of the civil war are to be applauded; slavery, as an institution was dead, even though the likes of Lee and the southern oligarchy would not admit it. The civil war was a lost cause from the beginning, so let us not give high honour to the blind and cruelly oblivious and memorialize those who would defend, at terrific human and social cost, the indefensible. I cannot imagine a better reason for removing these offensive monuments to a false and odious glory.

  34. Joel,

    To my knowledge, no organization of Louisiana Unionists ever formed to raise money for a monument to unionism or a unionist figure. This stands to reason, because Louisianans were generally more loyal to their state than to the federal government.

    • “Memorializing a war where Louisianans died in defense of their state is the same as memorializing any other war.” No, it’s not, and no reasonable person would think so. A war fought for freedom is not equatable to a war fought to defend the indefensible: the slavery of their fellow countrymen. Furthermore, Lee was not defending his state; he was defending the political status quo of his state, one that denied a considerable portion of its population the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. Please, don’t try to re-write history to suit your empty arguments.

  35. Jonathan,

    You’re the one making non-substantive comments. Snarkily droning on and on about me “not bringing my A game” and being “amateur” without explanation is just juvenile. I don’t mind push back, but please show some maturity.

    • Owen, when you write a Column on a highly charged racial issue wherein
      you start off attacking a former African-American Mayor calling him
      names, understand that that is something racist, white supremacists do.
      To be clear, I have never met you so I am not calling you that, but you
      set the tone by doing so. I happen to personally know the entire Morial
      family and my father was very close to Dutch in the 70’s and 80’s. I can
      assure that they are neither ignorant or stupid. And publicly calling
      Marc a narcissist is nothing short than character assassination. It’s a
      cheap shot and really diminishes the integrity of your column. There in
      lies the lack of maturity in this discussion.

    • Owen,

      Your comments were spot on. And your patience with those desperate to for a bandwagon is impressive. Me? I can’t tolerate fools with such calm.

      The confederate flag, despite any arguments that it coulda/should had any other meanings, was a symbol widely used to represent hate. It needed to be removed from government buildings.

      Moments representing history are quite different. Anyone with basic understanding of history realizes such. History isn’t simple and history should never be skewed to fit the knee jerk pandering of politicians. History is ours. And our history – good and bad- cannot be swept from view. It is sad to see people so ignorant of facts. It is pathetic to watch people be so easily led.

  36. mctawtlnola,

    Agreed on all counts. That’s been my perception as well, that this wasn’t a major issue until Landrieu brought it up, and since then the debate has generated more heat than light. It has created more division even though it is being pitched as a move to heal old wounds. There are other things we need to be focusing on, because this is not a productive policy to pursue.

  37. Joe,

    I would personally say that there’s a difference between a historic monument to a commanding general in the greatest conflict in American history, and a contemporary monument to a Nation of Islam leader from the 1960’s. Even then, I didn’t hear New Yorkers talk about renaming Malcolm X Boulevard after the DC Sniper killings.

    There’s living in the past and then there’s living with the past. I’ve repeated it time and again: nations don’t typically raze antique monuments in response to changing mores, particularly when those are driven by reductionist historical accounts. A simple statue of an undeniably historic and influential person may be cause for discussion and reflection, but absent extreme circumstances, the monument should remain. Of course standards change, but we don’t judge the people who lived over 150 years ago by modern standards, and we don’t scrub the public sphere due to some imagined offense.

    And is there really that much offense? You’re right insofar as this is a majority black city, and we have had times in the past with a black mayor and a majority black city council. Nevertheless, this is the first time an administration has pushed to remove all major Confederate monuments. That tells me a great deal.

    • A statue that’s barely over a hundred years old is not equatable to truly antique monuments. The memories of slavery and Jim Crow are hardly “antique” to a large segment of the population. As you well know, there have been many monuments razed in Europe over the past century, many in recent years. And rightly so. The push to remove the subject statues in New Orleans is not, as you insist, a result of “changing mores”. The “mores” are the same today as they were when these statues were erected and when their subjects still walked the earth. It’s just that today, the significant portion of the population that finds offence in their continued prominence is prepared to act. It is far less divisive for Mayor Landrieu to propose their removal than If a black mayor or other black community leaders had clamoured for same. So whatever you think of his honour’s motives for seeking their removal, it’s the right thing to do and the right time to do it.

  38. Jonathan,

    I don’t appreciate quotes of things I didn’t say, especially because these are not all accurate paraphrasing. Still, I’ll try and answer your points briefly:

    1. Whether breaking away from the Union was “treasonous” was a matter of debate before the Civil War. The Constitution didn’t strictly say that states couldn’t secede, and our nation was built off of the idea that a nation could split off from another.

    2. I didn’t mention “state’s rights” for a reason. I don’t agree that the south fought to venerate state’s rights beyond the right to leave the union. Rather, the south often seemed to want the federal government to affirmatively protect slavery even in the absence of Constitutional authority, and wouldn’t accept it when they didn’t win on issues clearly reserved to the federal government that in no way infringed on any right of any state.

    3. Agreed. Many wealthy people avoided service in the war on both sides, and that’s both tragic and wrong. However, Lee and Beauregard did fight.

    4. I won’t be drawn into analogies to WWII Germany or Japan. They’re obviously distinguishable. My stance is clear: I think judging a monument like this based on modern standards when these men fought out of state loyalty is simply wrong.

    5. Yes, Lee and Beauregard did oppose slavery, and this didn’t prevent them from obtaining their positions. Lee’s position was actually more nuanced; he hated slavery but didn’t think it could be eliminated overnight and basically thought northern abolitionists were overzealous. In any case, he wasn’t going around making public statements; his stances were in his private correspondence. The same goes for Beauregard, only he proved even more progressive on the issue — after the war he openly advocated for civil rights for freed slaves and even tried to start a third party movement with blacks as part of the coalition (it failed, obviously).

    6. I don’t see anything worth responding to here. I’d rather rest on the historical record.

    The same goes for the rest. I understand that you are fiercely anti-Confederate based on your ancestry, but removing monuments isn’t healing wounds, it’s making them worse.

    • Look, the statue to Lee was not raised to honour his (misguided) loyalty to his state. You know this, I know this, we all know this. So please cease using this as a reason for this statue’s continuance. Maybe you are kidding yourself, as Lee was kidding himself, but the time for kidding ourselves about slavery and denying our fellow citizens their civil rights is long past. Historical context is not a valid reason to celebrate an odious past.

  39. …this column from the guy who defended plastic grocery bags.

    Look, I lived in Germany. At least the Germans got it – there’s no celebration of the old hatred there. There are no monuments to Himmler. You don’t hold your wedding at a concentration camp just because it’s quaint-looking. Many white folks have allowed what was truly awful to become benign (in their minds). It should not be that way.

    I think it’s less about “offending” people and more about “what on God’s green earth is the right thing to do?” Because these monuments are coming down eventually – maybe not now, but eventually – and once they do the entire city will look back in hindsight asking why it took so long to get over ourselves.

    grocery bag love: https://uptownmessenger.com/2011/09/owen-courreges-plastic-please/

  40. Finally, someone with some brains and understanding of what is happening in our city. Many of our elected officials have no idea what they are considering or the historical facts. Methinks they watch too many television talking heads. The statue of Lee has been in place for 48,180 days! It lasted through 32 back-to-back years of black mayors and majority black City Councils. During those 48, 180 days, how many times have we witnessed protests and streetcar/traffic stops that created a nuisance? Really, how many New Orleanians over 18 would know where the statue of P.G.T. Beauregard is located – 5% maybe? Mr. Mayor – you need to be more concerned about the 10-year old black girl being murdered in a drive-by than the potential “trauma” she might experience by seeing a statue of Robert E. Lee. Your political ambitions, Mayor Landrieu, should not be in play whatsoever. If this was a heartfelt issue for you, why have you and your family been silent for DECADES?

  41. Owen et al,

    What ISIS is doing to the Yazidi women, children and men today is so
    eerily similar to what the WHITE CONFEDERATE brutal regime did to
    blacks. If you don’t believe me, Watch this brand new PBS Frontline special:

    In ‘Escaping ISIS,’ An Underground Railroad Forms To Save Yazidi Women
    http://www.npr.org/2015/07/14/422800624/in-escaping-isis-an-underground-railroad-forms-to-save-yazidi-women

    Then reevaluate whether you want Confederate statues or flags to remain on public grounds. But, know that the pain in the Yazidi families that ISIS is causing is no different than the pain blacks suffered at the hands of the Confederates. And to your neighbors in this city, those confederate symbols and statues are just as terrifying as the ISIS flag.

    If in the end you are unable to see the parallel and do not have a change of heart, then also know that you will be judged harshly by your fellow Americans.

    • You need serious help. If you want to pinpoint something that resembles what ISIS is doing in the Levant, you should look to the streets of Central City. Funny, I haven’t seen you mention the violence plaguing our streets yet. You seem too concerned fighting inanimate objects.

  42. Owen, why do you care so much? Part of your point seems to be: what does it really matter if we leave it up? Well, what does it really matter if we take it down? Who is offended by taking it down? And why? Maybe you say whatever goes up stays up – and you believe that generally. But if your blood is boiling over this – and yours clearly is – I have to ask: why? If we got worked up about every government action we disagree with, we’d all be nonstop pissed. So we prioritize what to get worked up about. Why have you prioritized this issue? Why does it matter? Will your life be any different the next day? Will you have more difficulty driving down Norman Francis Avenue than Jefferson Davis Parkway?

    • The city is a Mess with no money and now we have to pay to have monuments removed, streets renamed, schools renamed?
      How about spending some on the firemen, police dept. , potholes,crime,etc. etc.?????

  43. D. Turgeon,

    I disagree. We have a WWI monument, and that was a very morally ambiguous war and not one clearly grounded in “freedom.” A monument to Vietnam could face the same criticism (I think Vietnam was fought for freedom, but many would disagree). We have monuments in conflicts where our young men die, and those aren’t necessarily conflicts that are later regarded as “good” wars.

    And Lee was defending his state. He answered the call to arms regardless of the politics, and you can’t shoehorn politics in the back door. The Constitution allowed slavery at the time of the Civil War, and it wasn’t clear on the issue of whether states could voluntarily secede. The Civil War was what decided these issues.

    • All wars are stupid and morally ambiguous, just some more than others. The point is, there is NO moral high ground from which to justify the insanity of the Civil War. As an officer in the U.S. Army, Lee took a vow to defend his country, not his state, so where, exactly, is the morality in his forsaking that oath? Furthermore, the Lee statue is not a war memorial; it’s a memorial to a man who does not deserve such high public honour. He “answered the call to arms”, as you put it, in defense of slavery. There is no need to “shoehorn” anything, here. In defending his state, as you put it, Lee was defending slavery; he knew it, I know it and you know it, so let’s not pretend Lee’s actions were deserving of high public honour. The statue’s honorific placement is an insult to the civil rights of a large portion of the population; that should be enough for everyone to seek its removal.

      • Really and truly almost all wars ARE morally ambiguous. Practically the one and only time when a war was not that was World War II (and yet the outcome of it resulted in the Cold War starting up). Yes, slavery and secession were wrongful. Yet, one, Lincoln called up the troops to put, as he saw it, an illegal rebellion and keep the union together. That was his main stated object. Only at the very end did he press, with the 13th Amendment, for ending the practice of slavery in all of the states. Two, only a few people in the northern states were really and truly worked up about abolishing slavery. Most people in the northern states didn’t care one way or the other. In the south, there were only a few people, i.e. politicians and the wealthy “one percent” backing them who really cared about slavery — but once they got started they managed to drag everyone else, who were fighting to defend their homes and families, down with them and there is the story with Lee. History is complicated and often messy, but should still be preserved, especially because it is as complicated and messy as it is. I am really tired and I thoroughly detest the callousness here as regards that.

        • Granted, but many would say that in preserving the history represented by these public statues, you are preserving, if not condoning, the callous disregard for the human and civil rights of those who were enslaved, and their descendants. Yes, history is complicated and yes, history is messy. That is no reason, however, to abandon all moral reasoning and judgement upon it. History is most important for what it tells us about ourselves and for how it can help to guide us now and in our future. These monuments, which honour those whom they portray, do not serve as appropriate symbols and guides for us here, today. Erected at the height of Jim Crow, they serve as powerful symbols of the struggle for white supremacy and the denial of basic human and civil rights. Is this what we want for our public memorials? Really?

  44. D. Turgeon,

    One of these monuments is already in a park; the Beauregard monument is in City Park. Another, the Liberty Place Monument, occupies a nondescript piece of land in the back of a parking garage. A “public park” would be a step up from that. Another, the Jeff Davis Memorial, is just in neutral ground. Only one of the monuments, the statue of Lee, has a particularly prominent location in a traffic circle and would be diminished by moving it to a “public park.”

    • I guess you missed the “historical setting” part of my comment. We all know where these monuments are located, so there’s no need to be obtuse. All are prominently located, the Lee and Beauregard statues more so than the others. My point was that by locating them together, in a non-prominent location, they would gain a historical context rather than the honorific one now bestowed upon them. They need to be located where they can be seen as historical artifacts, not as civic monuments. Now, that’s not too hard to understand, is it?

      • I don’t understand why it is necessary at all to move the statues from where they are right now in order to achieve that end. In other words, how the statues are going to be viewed is up to the people who are viewing them, more than anything else. For years, few people were offended by them. Now, presto. people are offended by them, and that’s because people have made up their minds that they’re offended. Nonetheless, a minimally costly idea has been suggested, which is for the city to just place a plaque that simply states that the statue is not meant to serve as an official endorsement of slavery, secession, racial segregation, hatred, injustice and so on, and in that way, everyone’s interests will be served and the historical objects will continue to be preserved.

        • Placing a plaque is not a solution. The erection of these statues represented an insult to the human and civil rights of a large portion of the population, and their continued prominence in the public spaces they occupy merely continues that insult. By their very continued existence, they say more than the words on any plaque could ever hope to ameliorate.

  45. Jonathan,

    Marc Morial was clearly very ignorant on this. Beauregard having no ties to New Orleans? A very embarrassing and revealing statement. And if Marc Morial weren’t a narcissist, he wouldn’t have emblazoned his name on sidewalk improvements with bronze plaques or put his name on public trash cans and telephones. I can’t think of any New Orleans mayor who indulged a similar naming spree. If you want to see a lack of maturity, just look around — who does that?

    • Oh, Owen, bless your heart! Please do explain this bit of snark. Please compare and contrast Lee, Himmler and Bismarck. I’m all ears!

      • Cannibal,

        Well, the original commenter talked about how in Germany they didn’t have these kinds of monuments. They actually do. There’s a huge monument to Bismarck in Hamburg, a statue of Rommel overlooking his hometown. I fail to see the distinction between those and the statue of Lee.

        • Bismarck is in no way that I can think of analogous to Lee. Maybe Washington or Jefferson? (The histories of GER & USA are not very analogous!) I’d say that monuments to Bismarck are not divisive.

          Rommel aligns pretty well with Lee. He was a well-respected general fighting for an immoral (and doomed) cause about which he was conflicted. The difference, of course, is that Rommel was ultimately martyred for opposing his “lost cause”, while Lee was co-opted as a touchstone for the perpetuation of his.

          I see no problem with Rommel’s or Lee’s hometowns honoring them. New Orleans is not Lee’s hometown.

          • Cannibal, solid post. Rommel is a good comparison for Lee, although I would certainly not compare the Nazis’ horrors to the Confederacy (not saying you were doing that). Recognizing Lee has a time and place. Is Lee circle that time and place? Not sure. Perhaps not (although we should be immediately focused on crime first and foremost). I do know that Jonathan Henderson’s hysterical, self-hating squealing is no thoughtful solution to this situation.

          • Daison, your cowardice precedes you. You keep taking nasty digs at me and others but are too cowardly to reveal your identity. Perhaps you are afraid to expose your real identity for fear of being recognized for the embarrassing bigot that you are.

  46. busherbee,

    Napoleon was a loser too. They should take down statues of him in France. And heck, rip down the Arch du Triomphe as well — isn’t that just a monument to those losers who fought the Napoleonic Wars? Monuments to Bismarck in Germany as well — that dude lost a world war!

    This is not the way mature civilizations deal with antique monuments.

    • The supporters of the confederate flags and confederate monuments are rarely the most “mature” and “civilized” among us. Typically, they are racist, not to mention xenophobic, homophobic, myopic, and live in states that are financially subsidized into an American standard of living by rich liberal (oooooh: dirty word) states. Feel the way you feel. That’s fine. The country has moved past your mindset on this. It’s called progress. Accept it. You’re in the minority on this. And you’re supporting the wrong side of history.

      • Joe,

        Quite the opposite; I think I’m the majority on this. Also, I’ve explained why conflating the Confederate flag controversy with the issue of monuments is wrong.

        • In the Majority in what city? Not this one. This city is majority Black. And, frankly, I couldn’t care less what the folks in St. Bernard and Metairie want us to have at Howard and St. Charles. Perhaps in your circle of friends and family you are in the majority. But that’s about it in Orleans Parish.

          And please cut the pretense. The flag and the monuments stand for the same thing in the minds of supporters. You can refuse to acknowledge that but in doing so your argument loses credibility.

          • Joe,

            Do you have a poll on the subject? My suspicion is that support for this is shallower in the black community than you’d think, which explains why the issue wasn’t raised before now.

            And I completely dispute the notion that Victorian war memorials are the same as contemporary displays of the Confederate flag in the minds of supporters. At least one PBS viewer poll showed a strong disparity in viewpoints on that (which, although unscientific, at least belies the notion that I’m embarrassing myself by simply raising the argument).

          • And do YOU have “a poll on the subject”? I thought not. “Victorian”? What the heck does any of this have to do with Queen Victoria and the era named after her? Man, you are completely losing it!

    • I wouldn’t want to interfere in your curiously dire need to reminisce about the good old slave-owning days, nor would I want to diminish your privileged arrogance over what a “mature” civilization does and does not do with tributes to apartheid philosophy. I’m simply not adamant about preserving public art that idealizes euro-centric superiority. Wouldn’t bother me if they removed it and put it in a museum.

      • busherbee,

        It’s difficult to combine a strawman attack (claiming that I “reminisce about the good old slave-owning days”) with an ad hominem attack (“privileged arrogance”), but by George, you’ve done it! Here’s your prize:

  47. Jonathan, you seem very defensive playing that race card. We can’t criticize a mayor because he’s black? Is Nagin in jail because he’s black? Am I a racist because I correctly note Nagin to be a criminal? It has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with character.

    Congratulations to your family for being some of Morial’s cronies.

  48. Pandering at its finest. Way to go, “Your Honor.”

    (I’m sure somewhere there is a retired history teacher in NOLA that had this moron for a student many years ago and is now shaking his / her head in amazement?)

  49. D. Turgeon,

    Sure it was. Lee was being honored primarily for his service as general, which in turn was driven by his loyalty to his state. This was specifically noted at the dedication. Lee didn’t even support secession (again, a fact noted at the dedication).

    • Poppycock. His “service as a general”, as you put it, was service to a regime dedicated to the continuation of slavery. You can dance around that all you like, as did he and as did those who erected and dedicated his statue, but you cannot escape or evade it.

  50. D. Turgeon,

    Are you serious? The Lee monument is a very, very old monument. It’s over 130 years old (not just “barely over a hundred”). That’s antique by any definition; certainly by New Orleans standards. As far as monuments razed in Europe, the only ones I can think of were those put in by the occupying Soviets, and that’s another matter entirely.

    What Mayor Landrieu is doing is causing more divisiveness, and it wasn’t in response to any kind of major outcry. It’s absolutely the wrong thing to do.

    • Are YOU serious? You really think 30 extra years qualifies it as “antique”? Maybe by New Orleans standards, but not by the antiquarian standards of the statuary in other nations you were comparing it to. In addition to the statues erected by the communist governments in several European countries, there were also the statures erected by the Nazi’s and the Fascists in the last century. More recently, we have also seen the destruction of statues in the middle east. Anyway, you are the one who is talking about destroying these statues. My understanding is the proposal is to study their removal and relocation. Keeping them in their current locations just because they are old is an empty argument when they give offence to the civil rights of a large segment of the population. What you cry as divisive today can only help in bringing together for future generations what too often seems like two solitudes today.

  51. Prior to the Civil War, most Confederate officers admirably served in the US Army. We can thank Mitch for causing more division that the statutes and other memorials.

    • And they are American veterans, not enemies of America. This was even officially declared by Congress in 1958. We can thank these gentlemen on facebook for organizing a pro-monument rally on August 1st. https://www.facebook.com/events/1450303548626832/

      Although I imagine there will be more than a few gatherings since there seems to be quite a backlash to Landrieu’s despicable intentions.

  52. What? It’s very regular for there to be a delay in putting up monuments to any war. The WWII monument in DC wasn’t erected until half the vets were in the grave 60 years after the end of the war, 10 years later than Beauregard statue in relation. Why not sooner? Well the South was in utter economic chaos after the war, and, yes, reconstruction did not help matters. Not much disposable income to spend on monuments. Then, look at when they were built. Each was built approximately 10 to 15 years after the death of the person. After all, who build’s statues of living people other than Univ. of Alabama?

    • HarpMD,

      Exactly. Each monument started being planned immediately after the person being depicted died. The timing didn’t have anything to do with opposition to Reconstruction. It’s reaching.

  53. The people who paid for that pillar did so to have the Lee statue atop. If the statue goes, then the pillar should go with it and not be stolen.

    • How convenient. Just resign, and it relieves you of all you have pledged. It’s as silly an argument as Owen’s one that you can just separate the war from its cause, the state from its politics, and the man from his beliefs.

      • I, _____, having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United
        States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or
        affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United
        States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true
        faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely,
        without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will
        well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am
        about to enter; So help me God.” (DA Form 71, 1 August 1959, for
        officers.)

        Not sure what Oath was used in 1829. I is an oath of office and remains in effect as long as the officer is in the army. (I wonder if George Washington and others who served the King of England took as similar oath prior to 1775.)

  54. Read your article sir and thought it was dead on. I have a had time understanding that the whole facts are not being brought up. One would think after the routing of the Confederates in New Orleans that all slaves wound have been freed. Not so, one should read how they remained slaves until the end of war. Why is it we hear not one objection to the Union general’s and states men who allowed this to remain. Why not? In my humble opinion it does not fit their script. http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/emancipate.htm

    • Longinus,

      It’s definitely a more complex history than many are willing to acknowledge. On one side you have a minority in the “Lost Cause” crowd who want to find virtue in the Confederate cause, and on the the other extreme you have a minority of people who want to tar every Confederate leader as a traitor who fought to preserve slavery.

      I don’t think most New Orleanians fit at either extreme, because neither extreme is right.

      • Do you really believe there was even one Confederate leader who was not fighting to preserve slavery? If so, were they deaf, blind and dumb? Slavery was the basis of southern society and the southern economy, so how could they NOT have known they were fighting for slavery’s preservation? It’s not a question of “tarring”; it’s a question of historical fact.

        • It’s been said over and over many times that the majority of people in the southern states were not slave-owners. Now why do you supposed such people fought, anyway?

          • Your question is not relevant to the issue. We are discussing the potential removal of monuments to confederate leaders, not the cannon fodder they led to their untimely deaths.

  55. Amen. There is a danger in purging history, and, in politicians’ haste to jump on this newly chic bandwagon, they are completely ignoring it.

    • No one is “purging” history. History is what it is. What is being purged is our immoral stance towards it. Those who wish the monuments to remain are the ones who are ignoring history, both of the past and the history to come.

  56. The whole point here really is not and should not be whether Robert E. Lee was a saint or whether he was some evil monster (he was neither, but what he was was an important and memorable figure) but what would be lost for all succeeding generations and also what precedent would be set in just summarily throwing away a historical object, significant piece of local history, because the mayor wants to say that it’s a “public nuisance” and some others seem to want to chime and claim that they’ve been offended (even though said historical object has been around for decades and only just very recently have these people had anything to say about it).

    • RP,

      Bingo. This nails it. I think Lee was a good man (not a saint, but definitely worthy of the praise he has generally received). But more than that, we can’t raise monuments every so often on flimsy pretexts. Nobody seemed hugely offended until Landrieu brought this to the forefront. Marc Morial may be chiming in now, but why didn’t he do anything while he was mayor?

      • Let’s put this in a historical perspective (pun intended). You point out the Lee monument has been around for over 130 years, but those who find it offensive only began to get a civic voice 50 years ago. A lot has happened in those 50 years, much of which had more immediacy and import than these monuments. But their time, too, has come around at last. Let them go; for the sake of history, let them go.

  57. It also seems to be very clear that none of the parties who are in favor of removal of the supposedly offensive statues have any idea of what to do with them, much less some well-constructed plan to make they will be preserved in some fashion for future generations. It’s highly probable that if the mayor does get to carry his initiative out that the statues will be destroyed or be left to gather dust in permanent storage.

  58. Pretty much every statue ever erected by the Nazi government in Germany or Austria, by the Facist government in Italy, and the various communist regimes in several European countries. And that’s just in the last century.

    • D. Turgeon,

      Those are pretty lousy examples. Very short-lived monuments built by occupying regimes, or by the Nazis. Those are your precedents?

      • Why do you need precedents to do the right thing? And while I would;t compare them to Nazi’s you surely can’t think those who erected these statues were morally correct in supporting Jim Crow and white supremacy? Please.

        • D. Turgeon,

          Evasive. You thought it was an issue, obviously, otherwise why would you try to claim precedent? In any event, the idea that any memorial for a Confederate general is necessarily “supporting Jim Crow and white supremacy” reflects a high degree of historical ignorance, IMO.

          • I did not “claim precedent”; I merely pointed out that it is not, as another commenter claimed, “unprecedented”. And as you well know, no one is talking here about just “any” memorial to a confederate general. We are talking about specific, significant public memorials constructed in an era of mass denial of human and civil rights. To ignore the circumstance and import of these monuments is not only to ignore their history, but to ignore their present, as well.

          • The question is whether there have been any cases in the U.S. of tearing down monuments of the age and scale and status of the Lee and Beauregard statues. I’ll be willing to bet that that has never happened before in the U.S., i.e., there’s no precedent.

        • Actually Beauregard fought for civil and voting rights, but this is the problem we have: arguing with people who can’t be bothered to study the man they would dishonor.

          • The problem I have is responding to people who resort to insulting others in ad hominem attacks rather than addressing the issue itself. I am well aware of Beauregard’s post war support for civic rights as well as his significant civil achievements. The stature we are discussing does not reflect these qualities in the man, as it portrays him on horseback in his military garb. If you were to propose replacing this offensive statue with one in civilian dress reflecting the man’s positive contributions to the city, I am sure you would garner much support. Any “dishonour” lies with the current statue itself, given Beauregard’s own, post war repudiation of the social attitudes it represents.

  59. It’s not a question of “a lack of respect”; we all are free to choose whom we wish to respect, or not. Rather, it’s a question of appropriateness: is it appropriate to have major, public monuments to honour men whose fame is that they led the fight to preserve a social and economic system based on human slavery. For many of the city’s residents and visitors, the answer to that is a resounding ‘no’, which is why the statues should go. Frankly, I do not understand how anyone could answer otherwise.

    • No, it really isn’t a question of “appropriateness.” And then, if it is, then who gets to decide what is appropriate and what isn’t and what basis?

      I personally think that the story with Lee is a whole lot more complicated than what some people are making it to be, anyway and really detest seeing a person who’s an important historical figure, no matter what, being demonized and sliced and diced and what have you.

      Regardless, this statue, such as it is, such as Lee was or the people of New Orleans in the 1870s and 1880s were, for better or for worse, IS something historical. Summarily throwing it away, in this city, of all places, is something that I can hardly view as other than the stupidest idea I have ever heard.

      • Clearly, there are many who would disagree. For many of us, ‘history’ is not a valid reason for clinging to monuments which symbolize the violent suppression of human rights, complicated though the history of that suppression may be. As to “who gets to decide”, there is a law in place to govern this process, as there is for most issues involving public property.

  60. Joe,

    I care because these are beautiful historic monuments, and they ought to be preserved for that reason (the same reason the city wouldn’t let me tear down my own house). And I am offended by the prospect of taking down the monuments, not only because it offends historic preservationism, but also because the movement behind removing the monuments reflects a distorted version of history whereby everyone who fought to the Confederacy was a slavery-loving traitor.

    Also, if you haven’t noticed, the main point of my column is to express my opinion on government actions I disagree with.

    • You are completely ignoring that to many residents these monuments are anything but “beautiful” or “historic”. And have you considered that the “distorted view of history” may reside in the monuments themselves, and all they import?

  61. Cannibal,

    Bismarck is, if anything, more controversial insofar as he created an autocratic and authoritarian German Empire, actions that precipitated both world wars. I suppose the better analogy to Lee, however, would be Kaiser Wilhelm, who also has his own memorial, and presided over the losing side of WWI. He was certainly a controversial figure and I’m sure most modern Germans don’t much care for him, but they’re not talking about tearing down his statue.

    As for Rommel, his saving grace was indeed that he was involved in a plot to depose Hitler, but his main motivation in doing so was Hitler’s refusal to negotiate an end to a war they could not win. Lee, on the other hand, surrendered at a reasonable time, negotiated reasonable terms, and did not force the war to go on to the last man. And after the war he promoted reunification.

    Indeed, I think Lee comes off a great deal better than all of these men. And I don’t think many view his monument today as being about the “Lost Cause;” rather, it’s about remembering a well-regarded southern leader from the Civil War.

    • And who, exactly, are these “many”? You are not willing to admit that half (at least) of the population of NOLA do NOT think of Lee or the others as “well regarded southern leader(s)”. Far from it! You need to get your head out of the sand of ‘history’ and into the present, where we all live.

  62. D. Turgeon,

    Lee fought for his state, which was part of a Confederation of states that supported slavery. The Union also had legalized slavery as well, had vowed to keep slavery in lieu of war, and ultimately only eliminated slavery following the end of the war. And General Grant, who was supposedly fighting for an anti-slavery regime (where, again, slavery was legal), himself owned slaves.

    Slavery was the main issue, yes, but it’s not as simple as you’re trying to make it out to be. You can’t judge it with a simplified narrative underlied by modern mores. This is more reductionist history, and it’s bad history.

    • The fact that Grant owned slaves is no justification for honouring Lee and the others. History is never simple, but complexity is no argument for racism. If anyone is arguing for a reductionist view of history it is yourself, in arguing that Lee should be honoured as a simple soldier who fought in defence of his state, downplaying his central role in attempting to perpetuate a brutally vicious social and economic regime. You agree that “slavery is the main issue”, yet you still insist these men be honoured as the leaders in its defence! These are not “modern mores”, otherwise there would have been no civil war in the first place! These monuments were erected by those who supported Jim Crow apartheid in the South, as powerful symbols of the South’s white supremacy. Their removal is long overdue.

      • D. Turgeon,

        Both sides of the Civil War were racist. That’s the part of this you seem unable to acknowledge. The Union had a sizable population of abolitionists, but as of Fort Sumter had refused to gamble that on Civil War, in accordance with Lincoln’s position that he wanted to maintain slavery but not expand it. It was only the instigation of war that spurred the Union to abolish slavery, and even then there were many (including Lincoln) who believed in white supremacy and didn’t believe that blacks would ever be able to integrate into American society. We rightly reject such retrograde views today, but that was the mainstream back then.

        This is why the Civil War is neither subject to your reductionist views nor cognizable as “brutally vicious” in stark opposition to the Union. Both were backwards by modern standards, including with regard to race. While abolitionism in the north may have been the driving force for succession, it is also truth that the north was not, as a matter of policy, strictly abolitionist. This is part of why you could easily have southern generals who were opposed to slavery. It was highly complicated, and your wishes that it were otherwise don’t change the facts.

        • Firstly, in none of my comments have I claimed there were no racists in the North or that the North was “strictly abolitionist”. Secondly, I have never expressed a “wish it were otherwise”. History is what it is, not what we wish it to be. These are straw man arguments, which have little or nothing to do with the issue at hand.

    • Look, if “slavery was the main issue” as you admit, then why should we agree to public memorials to those who were leaders in the struggle to maintain it? Completely illogical. Because their old? Because they were erected by racists? Because they memorialize a historical idiocy? Why?

  63. D. Turgeon,

    Over 130 years old is old in the United States. The idea that it isn’t is laughable. This city has been around for less than 300 years, and with the exception of a handful of surviving buildings from the 1700s, the lion’s share of buildings considered “historic” today date from the Victorian era. Thus, a Victorian monument is clearly antique and clearly historic.

    But if you want to get technical, the US Customs Service considers an item “antique” if it’s over 100 years old. Some experts say it’s a combination of age and uniqueness, but by that standard a wholly unique statue with pedestal surely qualifies.

    Just face it: You want to remove an antique monument. There’s no way around that; you just have to justify it. I don’t think you have.

    • Well, “antique” or not, the proposal has been made for their removal under the terms of a legal statute. I think it is you who will have to justify their continuance in situ, and I do not think you have. Point is, they should never have been erected in the first place and most certainly would not have been had the disenfranchised portion of the population had any say in the matter.

      • D. Turgeon,

        I don’t think you’re correct about that. I think these statues would have been erected either way. Remember, even the local militia got about 3,000 free black volunteers. Who is to say that decades later there would be popular black opposition to a monument to General Lee? Do you have any evidence to suggest otherwise?

        What we know today is that is this never came an issue before Landrieu, and even then until late in his term. The bottom line is that this has never been a major point of contention, and beyond that we’re dealing in sheer speculation.

        • So, you really think that tens of thousands of disenfranchised citizens, members of a class that was still subject to a widespread system of human bondage and the denial of their most basic human and civic rights, would gladly join together with their oppressors in erecting statutes which symbolize their oppression? Oh, please. Have you lost your mind completely?

          • That was not what was said and not the point, which is that up until very recently when the mayor came up with his foolishness no one was having much of anything to say about the statues, i..e there was NO burning issue and few people, if any, were expressing that they were having a problem with the statues being there.

          • That was Owen’s point. Did you not read the first paragraph of his post? To quote: “I don’t think you’re correct about that. I think these statues would have been erected either way.” No, they would not. As for expressions of resentment over the monuments, it is my understanding they have been a point of contention for many years with many of the city’s citizens of African descent. It’s just taken this long for their resentment to be heard and it is to the Mayor’s credit that he heard it and acted on it.

          • No, that’s what I said, but it is very much the point. Did you not read Owen’s first paragraph? Quote: “I don’t think you’re correct about that. I think these statues would have been erected either way.” They would not. As to people expressing a problem with these monuments, it is my understanding that there have long been resentments towards them by persons of African descent. Please remember these persons only began to acquire a civic voice 50 years ago, so it should not be surprising it took this long to come to a head when there were so many other, more pressing issues to deal with.

    • That was totally “called for”, and that you do not think so says a lot about you. See my additional comment below, re. animal cruelty.

      • D. Turgeon,

        It’s an old expression. Claiming that the mere use if it indicates racial bias (as you were obviously doing) is uncalled for.

        • I do not know how you get from a metaphor that condones cruelty to animals to claiming it “indicates racial bias”. The leap of logic astounds me. To repeat, you have only to look at the comment below for my explanation of why the “old expression” in question is objectionable (hint: it has nothing to do with racial bias).

  64. AND I QUOTE:
    The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, physically, and socially. The painful discipline they are undergoing is necessary for their further instruction as a race, and will prepare them, I hope, for better things. How long their servitude may be necessary is known and ordered by a merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild and melting influences of Christianity than from the storm and tempest of fiery controversy. This influence, though slow, is sure. The doctrines and miracles of our Saviour have required nearly two thousand years to convert but a small portion of the human race, and even among Christian nations what gross errors still exist! While we see the course of the final abolition of human slavery is still onward, and give it the aid of our prayers, let us leave the progress as well as the results in the hands of Him who, chooses to work by slow influences, and with whom a thousand years are but as a single day. Although the abolitionist must know this, must know that he has neither the right not the power of operating, except by moral means; that to benefit the slave he must not excite angry feelings in the master; that, although he may not approve the mode by which Providence accomplishes its purpose, the results will be the same; and that the reason he gives for interference in matters he has no concern with, holds good for every kind of interference with our neighbor, -still, I fear he will persevere in his evil course -Robert E. Lee

    • “To long for morality when one is a man of passion is to yield to injustice at the very moment one speaks of justice. Man sometimes seems to be a walking injustice: I am thinking of myself.” — Albert Camus, from ‘The Wrong Side and the Right Side’.

    • No, I didn’t. Owen brought it up, and I replied. Please pay attention. And remember, the “southerners” of which you speak excluded a very large part of the population (I think you know which part). Monuments to the violent struggles of one section of the population to oppress another section of the population have no place in a modern, democratic, inclusive society.

  65. Nobody was insulted prior to June 2015. Spending millions of tax dollars on removal of these genuine historical objects, on the other hand, now that would be an insult.

    • And how would you know that “nobody was insulted” by these statues? A large part of the population has been insulted by them since their erection. You know, the portion of the population that had no say in it. Oh, they are “genuine” and “historical”, all right, which is EXACTLY why they should have been removed long ago.

  66. Well, I have to say that you’ve underscored many reasons there to leave those statues alone as they are, as they are significantly important reminders of things that people should not ever forget. No two ways about it, this proposal of the mayor’s would just be an attempt, a foolish one, at erasing history.

    • Oh, please! These are not monuments erected to remind people of the vile, horrendous regime of slavery and Jim Crow, but the opposite! These statutes proclaim that the “things that people should not ever forget” (as you put it), are the struggles for white supremacy over their fellow citizens of African descent. The Chinese have a saying: “You can confuse the sun with the moon, but that won’t turn night into day”.

  67. And what does that law say as far who gets to decide what is appropriate and what isn’t and how they are to arrive at that determination?

    • You are twisting the discourse, and you know it. No one was talking about monuments in the U.S. except you. I provided precedents in response to another’s remarks that there were none. As I noted, in fact, there are many.

  68. Owen, you keep digging yourself deeper into a hole. It’s probably about time you start digging yourself out.

  69. Again, those are only a very few examples, among many thousand monuments that there are in Europe, and not examples of anything that took place in this country or of monuments that have been in place for over 100 years.

  70. But even if the mayor is successful in having the statues torn down he will certainly not have changed or erased the fact of what happened historically but he will and we will just look foolish and stupid for seeming trying to do so.

  71. Because I have lived here and followed local events and news. The Liberty Monument has been controversial, yes. The statues of Lee, Beauregard and Jefferson Davis, up until recently, have not been. And, as others have pointed out, the city has definitely had political leaders over the years who would have been receptive to it if there had been in fact numbers of people out in the community discussing these statues and how these statues are causing a problem for them and that just has not happened.

  72. As has been stated by others, the plain fact is that the statues were meant as memorials to the individuals being depicted, nothing more, nothing less. This grandiose interpretation of the meaning of the statues that you have come up with is your interpretation only and certainly not how anyone was viewing these statues up until just recently.

  73. Thoughtful article . I learned a lot from the facts , Does someone know
    where I could possibly get a template 1999 DA 71 document to work with ?

  74. G T is my great great uncle OMG…. And I’m related to a lot of people here, people the present and former mayor surely know. Someone must be hurting for money or attention, and so sacrifices honor, and wisdom…

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