I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Ten Million Monuments

It's with great hesitation that I say anything at all about the current controversy surrounding Civil War monuments. Saying that you'd prefer to see them remain standing puts you on the same side as white supremacists, and any time you wind up on the same side of an issue as people as loathsome as this, it's time for a gut check.

I've lived in the south my whole life but I've never once picked up a rebel flag. I look down with some embarrassment upon those who bedeck themselves, their houses, and their cars with the stars and bars. It's always struck me as unpatriotic to be so sentimental about the side that tried their best to disunite the United States. All the arguments that the battle was for a noble cause fought by honorable men provoke eye-rolling on my part. Let us move the battle lines forward in time, and suppose that the Civil War was on the verge of being fought today. The Union side is our government much as it is today, warmongering, wasteful, inefficient, corrupt, and deaf to the needs of the average citizen, not to mention abusive of privacy, with laws that ensure that poor criminals live their lives in prison and rich criminals live their lives in the halls of power. The Confederate side, on the other hand, is promising ethical government and the protection of individual liberties or whatever your fantasy of the perfect government would be. Maybe they're providing free health care, maybe they have free college, and they're doing all this with zero income tax. Political utopia, except, well, the Confederate side does allow that people whose ancestors came from Africa can be bought and sold as commodities and used for free labor. Oh, and you can beat the people you own with whips for any reason, or hang them without bothering with trials or judges. You can rape them if you wish, and sell the children that are produced by this action.

The Union, on the other hand, despite it's many, many flaws, does not allow men to own other men no matter what their skin color.

Which side would you fight on?

I have some sympathy for those who want to take down Confederate monuments. Many were erected in response to civil rights laws, a way of saying that, among the politicians of the time with the power and purse to put up these statues, they were still Confederates at heart and still believed in the Southern cause, even if that cause allowed for blacks to be property instead of people. The monuments were a thinly disguised middle finger flipped at the rest of America. Today, they are embarrassing to look at. Trump called them beautiful. I used to live in Richmond, and, yes, there is a certain aesthetic pleasantness to the monuments along the road. If you only drive past without knowing who you are looking at and what they did in life, you can appreciate them as decoration. But suppose you stop and read the plaques? Too often, you'll find only veneration. You'll read the accomplishments of someone who was a general and hear how he fought with honor and bravery, but there's no mention of him owning thirty slaves or having five bastard children by them. You won't read that he once whipped a slave for two full hours because of an escape attempt.

Pulling down the statues seems to me to let those who wish to venerate the Confederates off the hook. As painful as it is for a black person to drive down a street and see a Civil War general venerated, it should be even more painful for a white person to see the same monument. They should stay up not to glorify the Confederacy, but to remind us of the depths of evil we can sink to as a nation. It should spur us to work harder today to ensure equality and justice for all.

There's still a danger to leaving these statues standing. The very fact you've had a statue erected to you carries value. It makes you seem important. Meanwhile, the tens of millions of slaves who lived and died in the shadows of these men have no monuments, or at least too few monuments.

Instead of tearing down the monuments to Civil War soldiers, or of slaveholders like Jefferson or Washington, leave them standing. Jefferson and Washington were both great men who did great things, and it's fair to honor them for the good they did. It's also just as important to remember that even great men are capable of terrible deeds. So, surrounding the Washington Monument or the Jefferson Memorial, erect statues of every slave we have a record of them owning, life sized, rendered in as much detail as possible, even though most of the faces will, of course, be representative rather than accurate, since I doubt many portraits of these slaves exist. On Monument Avenue in Richmond, line the whole block, both sides of the streets, with long, long rows of these slave statues, men, women, children and babies. Make it impossible to take a photo of a Civil War "hero" without capturing in the background a dozen slaves. The slave statues should go up everywhere a Confederate statue exists, in the hundreds. But we shouldn't stop there. The fact that so many of our founding fathers were slave holders shows how important the slave economy was to the entire United States when it was founded. There shouldn't be a single state capital anywhere without their share of the slave monuments.

Build these statues by the millions, even tens of millions. The alt-right marchers in Charlottesville say they want to defend history? That they want to preserve the memory of their ancestors? That's a noble cause. Let's embrace it and show even the history we'd rather not remember, so that we never, ever, forget.


Mr. Cavin said...

This is awesome.

James Maxey said...

Thanks. So far, no death threats. A good day.