Monday, June 1, 2009

Can't Change History

Last week, certain individuals attempted to convince President Obama that he should not honor Confederate fallen with a wreath for Memorial Day. Gratefully, the president ignored these requests, and sent a wreath to Arlington National Cemetery anyway. These people argued that, by honoring Confederate soldiers, it was a symbol of racism. Unfortunately, they fail to see the whole picture. Those men fought and died for what they believed in, and chances are, it didn't have anything to do with slavery. What people fail to take into account is that the entire nation was racist at that time. Northerners didn't want the slaves freed, because that meant they would come up and take away their jobs. Southerners didn't want them freed, because it meant they would lose their free labor system. By failing to acknowledge the Confederate graves, the President would have been turning his back on Americans who died for their country.

This situation reminds me of the controversy that surfaced last year. A candidate running for office attempted to raise the issue of tearing down the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest in Memphis, and renaming the park. Again, the cry of racism rang out. To me, it seems a mute point. People in the 1800's just didn't think like we do today ... period. To destroy Nathan Bedford Forrest Park would be to try to erase history, and in my opinion, that is terribly wrong. As one writer declared in a letter to the editor, printed in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, "Leave Nathan Bedford Forrest alone!" I can't agree more.

Is it wrong to honor those heroes who fought and died for what they believed in, even if it is considered racist today? I don't believe it is. We have to take into account the mindset of the day, and even though our morals and opinions have changed since then, to devalue and deface their name and image would be tragic. There are plenty of occasions throughout history that have offended, oppressed, humbled, and humiliated. It is our responsibility to learn from these situations, and become a better people because of them.

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