Opinion: Confederate participation trophies

A statue of Albert Pike, a brigadier-general in the Confederate Army, stands in Northwest Washington, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
By: 
RYAN PHILLIPS
SDN EDITOR

My generation catches flak for our need for validation, mainly because parents decided it would be a good idea to award everyone a trophy or medal for just showing up.

These awards for being satisfactory are informally referred to as “participation trophies,” and notable football coaches and successful athletes alike denounce them as detrimental to the social development of the recipient.

I don’t completely disagree, but I feel like a real world application of this concept is playing out before our eyes.

Around the country, debate over Confederate statues and emblems has reached a fever pitch.

Opponents argue the imagery honors traitors of the failed Confederacy, which sought to rip apart everything the U.S. Constitution represents, while supporters rally around the monuments citing the preservation of their “heritage.”

The violence seen last weekend in Virginia set off a chain reaction in cities across the country and spurred an acceleration of policy to remove Confederate imagery from public places and for good reason … the war is over and the traitorous Confederacy lost.

I pledge alliance to the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands - and no one else. Period.

Why are so many quick to defend and preserve an ideology geared toward toppling the order set up by our forefathers? I feel the drive to preserve Confederate heritage is rooted much deeper in the human psyche than simple Southern pride and echoes the defeated ideologies still trying to surface nearly two centuries later.

These beliefs are inherently driven by the notion of racial superiority and the sovereign right to act in a superior fashion.

I’ve lived in the Deep South my entire life and I pride myself on being from the birthplace of the blues, Coca-Cola and William Faulkner. But another residual effect of Southern heritage for many is a confusion as to what their heritage is.

Like Faulkner’s Joe Christmas, many southerners cling to whatever heritage is advantageous to the argument at hand. If confronted by snobbish yankee elitism, they wave the Confederate battle flag. If worried about someone crossing the border to take their job, the stars and stripes is unfurled.

Many people I know who want so desperately to maintain Confederate monuments and imagery to protect their “heritage” are the same red-blooded Americans who stand with pride when “The Star-Spangled Banner” is played.

If you have any sense, then you know you can’t have it both ways.

In regards to the statues, someone should highlight the necessity of such in a public space because I’ve yet to find any. Many argue the monuments are needed to remember history, lest we forget it and repeat ourselves … but I have some questions when faced with those notions.

Are our textbooks and museums really so poorly managed? Are there decades-long gaps in our children’s history classes intended to overlook the Civil War - both before and after?

Are statues of Robert E. Lee and Nathan Bedford Forrest really the last semblance of a war which left almost a million dead and a country still feeling the effects nearly two centuries later?

The statues and imagery should not be airbrushed from history, as Stalin did with subversives in Soviet Russia, but belong in museums and textbooks. I don’t feel the removal of the statues from public places is as Orwellian as many on the Right would like to believe.

Some argue - given current trends - the removal of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson statues could be the next censorship to history. I whole-heartedly disagree.

Yes, both founding fathers - and others - owned slaves.

The difference is Washington and Jefferson didn’t actively fight a war for the right to continue owning them.

So, I ask this question: Did the countless American soldiers who gave their lives to give us the ability to stand for the flag, also die for the Confederate flag or for the ideology of the subversive men depicted in these statues across the country?

My great grandfather was shot by a German sniper in France fighting for the United States of America - not the Confederate States of America - and I take offense to anyone holding an enemy flag against our great nation. It’s not patriotic and it’s un-American.

Following the events in Virginia, which revolved around one statue on a college campus, we as a nation need to take a long hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves important questions about the conventions we hold dear.

In a country where the history books portray the U.S. as a winner, should we really be honoring the loser, too?

Is a participation trophy really worth it?

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