I've had a change of heart.
But a few hours' research has shown this latest effort by Charlottesville's City Council to be but one part of a groundswell across the American South, over many years, against all symbols of the Confederacy. I'd remembered that there was a lot of controversy around the Confederate flag about two years ago, but it was the many retailers' bans that stuck with me; and that, as erring on the safe side, for sales. What I didn't take in, at all, was the public sentiment against the flag, particularly amongst black, and more educated white, Americans in the South.1 And now reading about locals avoiding, not only the vicinity of these monuments, but also parks bearing the prominent names2... It strikes a chord.
The Mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, was quoted referencing the decision to remove their statue of Lee:3
It's not good to continue to revere... [to] put the Confederacy on a pedestal... [And if critics of the removal don't believe that,] the people of New Orleans believe it and we don't want these statues in places of reverence, they need to be in places of remembrance.
Even if I had the hubris to rail against the wishes of the people who must live in the shadows of these monuments, that distinction -- history versus reverence -- has undone the last of my conviction. It isn't about
sanitizing [America's] history,4 as Condoleeza Rice has been quoted, speaking against the removals and renamings in general: it's about acknowledgement and reconciliation, which Lee himself was a proponent of in the wake of the Civil War. In 1866, he was called to testify before the Joint Congressional Committee on Reconstruction:5
... [E]very one with whom I associate expresses kind feelings towards the freedmen. They wish to see them get on in the world, and particularly to take up some occupation for a living, and to turn their hands to some work.
It sounds to me like these communities need this.
EDIT (28/08/2017): CBC published an analysis by Aaron Wherry a few days ago entitled, ANALYSIS: Should John A. Macdonald's name be removed from schools? It is at least a question worth asking: Confronting the good and the bad of Canada's first prime minister.
Initially, I'd planned to draw parallels to the situation in Canada in this post; these sentiments were similarly uninformed, unsurprisingly. I'd actually thought, while reading about what was happening to everything bearing Lee's name and image, that, by that rationale, Sir John A.'s got to go then, for what his government did to Riel alone, never mind those awful schools. It was a sarcastic thought.
In this too, I've had a change of heart.
Quoted by Wherry, Isadore Day, Regional Chief of Ontario, actually hit a note similar to Landrieu's when he questioned the wisdom of
[e]levating people to that stature.And National Chief Perry Bellegarde, quoted in an article linked in the piece, really drives the point home, for me:
How would you feel if you were a young First Nations person going to that school, knowing full well that Sir John A. Macdonald was one of the architects behind the residential school system? ... You wouldn't want to feel good about attending that school, would you? Because I wouldn't.
Be sure to teach what both the government of the day, and its official opposition, advocated regarding the Indigenous population. But leave it off the outside of the building where it's done.