Historic City News includes occasional sightings around the worldwide web that express the opinions of various commentators. The writer’s opinions do not necessarily reflect our own.
By: Ed Slavin edslavin.com
154 years after the Civil War, Confederate memorial/monument discussion divides St. Augustine.
Our Castillo (then Fort Marion) peacefully changed hands twice, with no bloodshed. An outgunned U.S. Army sergeant turned over the keys in 1861, obtaining a receipt. Our U.S. Navy and Marines retook the fort on March 11, 1862 after Confederates scrammed.
Some 620,000 Americans suffered and died in 23 states in 384 battles. Americans slaughtered each other, killing Americans, in America. They were victims of an evil, chattel-slavery-based economy, its idolatrous ideology and blasphemous theology.
A Tennessee environmental whistleblower gave me a flattened bullet with teeth-bite indentations, found near the 1864 Civil War battlefield in Franklin, Tennessee. Without anesthesia, soldiers bit bullets while their arms or legs were amputated. (One of six Confederate Generals killed in Franklin was a South Carolinian, only 32, whose parents named him “States Rights Geist.”)
Conscripted in St. Augustine, 44 poor young descendants of Menorcan, Greek, and other Mediterranean indentured slaves-by-contract perished, some in Tennessee, all memorialized by their mothers, sisters and wives in the 1870s.
Their memorial is about loss, not hate — a legally-protected antiquity, protected free speech, just like our two civil rights monuments in the Plaza de la Constitución. Leave them alone, please.
Our American Founders wisely believed that the answer to speech is more speech. Not censorship. Lincoln and Civil War veterans wanted healing, not hatred.
Unanimously, St. Augustine City Commission wisely decided in 2017 not to move that memorial, but to contextualize. Led by African-Americans and historians, a thoughtful, scholarly committee recommended 500 words in four plaques.
This is no fungible, $500 foundry-built “lost cause” monument, unlike those removed/vandalized/destroyed elsewhere.
Some demand the ladies’ 1879 memorial be removed and placed in an (unnamed) “museum.”
Our City IS a museum. So is our Plaza.
Try tolerance. Be sensitive to the Menorcan families’ rights/feelings, our City’s diverse history and fragility of a 140-year-old memorial.
As Jesus said on Calvary, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And He said, “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do to me.”
Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline is right: we need a dialogue on race.
In 1964, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told local civil rights demonstrators they must have “love in their hearts.”
It is unloving and un-American to demand destruction of a memorial to dead soldiers, erected by grieving kinfolk. Angry animadversions, like calling long-dead soldiers “traitors,” play into the hands of Vladimir Putin. They ignore the compassionate healing messages of Dr. King, Andrew Young, Lincoln, and Civil War veterans.
Rev. Ronald Rawls, Jr. is wrong, again. Rawls was wrong to destroy historic Echo House, wrong to break his promise to restore it, wrong to sell its roof tiles, wrongfully demolishing it for parking for his “business,” as he called St. Paul A.M.E. Church, threatening to move out of town, angrily playing both racism and religion cards.
Enough. It’s time to end the decades-long demolition derby in St. Augustine. Victor Hugo wrote of Notre Dame Cathedral, “Great edifices, like great mountains, are the work of centuries.”
St. Augustine is a national treasure. Learn our 12,000-year history — including indigenous, colonization, slavery, Fort Mose, Menorcan, Civil War, Jim Crow segregation and Civil Rights history. Let’s share it, “warts and all,” as a UNESCO World Heritage site, in a St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore. Let’s empower our National Park Service to preserve, protect, defend and interpret the complete history of this magical place.
Let’s promote healing, human rights, living wages, flood-proofing, environmental protection and historic preservation, keeping history above water.
For more information about the Ladies Memorial Association of St Augustine, Inc. (In reorganization)
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