I would like to share a personal story of how a rather obviously controversial monument made a difference for me. Being a bit of a Civil War fan, I have spent some time in and around Fredericksburg, VA. There is a sandstone blocks in old town, at the intersection of Charles and William streets it is a rather odd piece of stone. I had never given much thought to that stone or the area in general. Then on May 6, 2005 I read a paper saying the stone had been vandalized.
that article is here:Slave Block Vandalized
I had been on that intersection many times, even rested on that stone and not been aware of its past.After reading the story, I immediately felt dirty for having touched it. I clearly knew that Fredericksburg was part of the South, that the area had clearly held slaves and it follows that being a regional hub it would have been a natural place to have auctions. But, having been in the proximity of that stone made that more real and more "today" for me than anything I can imagine. That stone was a reminder of a stain on America. It became my stain as I had leaned against it in such a cavalier fashion. I knew that those other souls that had been that close to it felt no comfort, no respite from their struggle by being there. They were sold as cattle to the highest bidder.
We are erasing monuments and reminders to our history. In doing so, we lose opportunities for people to have these epiphany moments. America needs more connections to our past, not fewer. I find that when I am in Fredericksburg now, I avoid the square, choosing to walk around it instead of through it. That is a powerful reminder and a needed one. When we are ignorant of our past, we risk repeating it.
If you hate a monument, perhaps that is the best reason to keep it. Let others feel that same visceral gut punch. Let others remember our shared past lest we chance to repeat it.