“We should all keep studying history and working to best serve one another in the present where God has planted us. If we do that then the future will take care of itself. That is something that takes honest dialogue not the vogue in these socially and politically volatile times.”
State Rep. Karl Oliver ignited a firestorm over the weekend with a comment on social media about protecting historical monuments. The statement was aimed at those who are working to bring down monuments in New Orleans, a city that may be the most diverse and unique in the entire country, certainly in the Southeast U.S.
Oliver posted the following:
“The destruction of these monuments, erected in the loving memory of our family and fellow Southern Americans, is both heinous and horrific. If the, and I use this term extremely loosely, “leadership” of Louisiana wishes to, in a Nazi-ish fashion, burn books or destroy historical monuments of OUR HISTORY, they should be LYNCHED! Let it be known, I will do all in my power to prevent this from happening in our State.”
My first read of Oliver’s words had me nodding my head in agreement until I got to his use of all caps. When I got to the reference to “OUR HISTORY,” a voice appeared in the back of my head saying, ‘I hope he doesn’t mean to insinuate . . .”
The first, nearly subconscious, inkling regarding the term ‘OUR HISTORY’ suddenly took on the meaning that I had hoped wasn’t intended when I read the word “LYNCHED” in all caps.
To his credit, and maybe due to a little arm-twisting, Oliver issued the following apology yesterday afternoon:
“I, first and foremost, wish to extend this apology for any embarrassment I have caused to both my colleagues and fellow Mississippians. In an effort to express my passion for preserving all historical monuments, I acknowledge the word ‘lynched’ was wrong. I am very sorry. It is in no way, ever, an appropriate term. I deeply regret that I chose this word, and I do not condone the actions I referenced, nor do I believe them in my heart. I freely admit my choice of words was horribly wrong, and I humbly ask your forgiveness.”
This didn’t stop the Editorial Boards of both the Clarion Ledger and the Sun Herald, and maybe a few more by now I have yet to see, from issuing calls for his immediate resignation. It’s hard to argue against the reasons for these conclusions. Although, I don’t think it’s the place of either newspaper to put themselves above the voters in Oliver’s district. That decision should be left up to them. But, if the consensus with his voter’s is the same and he is forced to step down then it will be a result of his own “frenetic intemperance“, to use a phrase coined by John Horvat.
I recommend Mr. Horvat’s book ‘Return To Order‘ to anyone who wants a more detailed understanding of the often misunderstood value of the connection between social conservatism and fiscal conservatism.
Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Bill Stone and House Democratic Caucus Chair David Baria issued the following joint statement regarding Oliver’s post Monday:
“As members of the Mississippi Legislature we wish to condemn in the strongest terms possible the remarks of one of our colleagues concerning lynching of public officials involved in the decision to remove confederate memorials in our neighbor state. The use of such inflammatory rhetoric in the context of public discourse is repugnant and does damage to the considerable advances that have been made in healing wounds caused by state-supported racism of the past. In 2017, no elected official in the State of Mississippi should be speaking in this manner regardless of any strongly held opinions concerning confederate statues.”
I absolutely agree, and I thank both of these men for not emotionally reacting and trying to gain political points from the incident.
Obviously with the practice of slavery being the key official reason why some states seceded, and the prior and subsequent public pronouncements by political leaders at the time and after basing the secession and latter causes on white supremacy, race becomes an issue to be discussed during debate of these monuments. No one should deny that fact. To do so is to reduce the seriousness of ones intention and argument.
And unlike some who just wish this conversation would go away, I tend to think that difficult public conversations are a good thing. This is one that Mississippi simply has to move through if we hope to get beyond it. We can’t ignore the wound and let it keep festering. But as I’ve stated elsewhere, we have to agree on common rules of the debate and discussion.
We have to stop allowing ambitious personal political considerations of individuals stoop to the level of using phrases and actions to fan the flames of emotion and division without challenge. We have to hold each other accountable to a higher standard, especially those who side with us politically.
As a conservative, I don’t believe that “the government line” or the “official” public proclamations are the unvarnished truth that must be accepted. I don’t trust the government to do that civic duty for me. Therefore I don’t agree with the premise that it is those statements and only those statements that define the parameters of any discussion.
It’s disingenuous for anyone to argue that we must accept the “official” and the most vile secession statements of the states as the absolute causes of the Civil War, only to turn around when it comes to these monuments and say the “official” reason for their dedication isn’t valid because it honors the qualities and character of the war dead absent any reference to slavery.
Revisionist want to transport their present day understanding back in history to pass personal judgement on individuals entire lives based on heavily edited narratives of actions and decisions. That is a standard we should not accept for anyone or any generation, past or present.
Redemption is always available to each of us through Gods Grace. Who are we as individual specks to deny that Grace to anyone?
If you agree that the monument discussion must be based in searching the hearts of men at intervals of history, and the more complex personal and emotional reasons these monuments were placed–which is what I believe an ongoing assessment of history should be–then this search for the full “unofficial” truth in everyday lives can’t suddenly be packaged up and put away. Many would like to do so because it’s not a useful device in reaching the pre-ordained conclusion a person or group wants to reach in order to “win” the political argument. A standard that changes based on political considerations isn’t a standard at all.
In other words, if the war was about slavery and only slavery because the state of Mississippi and other states used that as an official state reason for secession, then it must follow that these monuments and banners that have been officially adopted since then must be given the same deference to what the official dedication of the time says they were erected to memorialize.
However, if the erecting of monuments is a more complex issue with layers of socioeconomic, racial, traditional, familial and individual considerations supporting why certain people and groups gravitated toward differing conclusions, personal representations and violent divisions, then it also must follow that we treat the entirety of the causes of our Southern historical identity that stems from the secession and through the Civil War in that regard.
Picking and choosing what feeds interpretation based on political considerations and desired outcomes is blinding group think. It has been the primary cause behind nearly every atrocity in human history.
Searching the more complex reasons behind the hearts of men and women is a much more difficult thing to do, and a much more proper assessment of history in my mind. But if you agree with this rather than the “official” assessment then you have to agree that history is always being shaped by learning more about the perspectives, interpretations and discoveries of individuals of all walks of life. It requires constant exploration. Therefore, it can rarely ever be defined based on knowing all the facts behind such an all-encompassing event as secession and the U.S. Civil War. And the racism of the past or present cannot define the entire meaning or cause behind actions or behind symbols or monuments today as it did then. Neither can it represent the defining character of a race, region or a state.
Individual decisions based on individual circumstances form a complex tapestry of a diverse history. We in the present own that history. Whether we like it or not doesn’t make it less truthful, it still belongs to us all–all of the burdens, the tragedies, the dreams realized and the honors bestowed–the ugly and the beautiful, the good and the bad.
It’s the reason I support keeping the state flag as it is, and the reason I support leaving monuments where and how they stand. We don’t change history by editing it. We change it by living a life of honest service to one another.
Shouldn’t those who say they believe in individual liberty or individual rights allow everyone, regardless of race or any other classification, to enjoy the right to their own discovery and belief of this history? If so, my belief in the narrative I have come to understand, is no less valid than anyone else’s simply because I didn’t reach the same conclusion. Someone may argue with me, and they may make me think to the point that I change my mind, but they certainly can’t force belief on me. That is something that requires my agreement.
Ultimately this public nastiness is about control. Who gets to control the “official” truth? As a liberty-minded conservative, I say no one person or group does. We should all keep studying history and working to best serve one another in the present where God has planted us. If we do that then the future will take care of itself. That is something that takes honest dialogue not the vogue in these socially and politically volatile times.