For some reason that perplexes me, there seems to be a concerted attempt of late to eliminate all traces of the Confederacy: its memorials, its flags, and its heroes. I, myself, have nothing against Robert E. Lee, a man I regard as a legitimate American hero who just happened to fight on the losing side. I even admire the somewhat unsavory Nathan Bedford Forrest, a brilliant cavalry general who just happened to be one of the founding members of the Ku Klux Klan.
These are men who believed in slavery along with millions of their countrymen. In fact, Forrest had before the war been a slave dealer. Do I think slavery is evil? Yes. Do I blame people in the past for believing differently than we do? Not at all. Slavery was petty universal until some point in the 19th Century. It exists even today in the United States, where many prostitutes are in fact slaves of the men who pimp them. We are wasting our time when we are trying to reform our ancestors by pulling down statues, banning flags, and denigrating heroes of times past.
To a certain extent, I believe that much of this whitewashing the past is due to the fact that even the Solid South is not necessarily solid. Americans from Blue States have invaded part of the South, and Red Staters have returned the favor. If I lived in Memphis today, I probably would be persistently annoyed by all the trappings of the War of the Southern Confederacy.
Let the South have their heroes. Does that mean that we should permit slavery in the 21st century? By no means. We just have to admit that times and mores have changed.
If you reject my reasoning, I suggest you read the three hefty volumes of Shelby Foote’s The Civil War: A Narrative. It is written predominately from the Southern point of view. As I read it, I kept thinking, “These people were Americans, too!”