Weekly feature by: James R. Kincaid

This war is not about slavery.

Robert E. Lee

I fought against the people of the North because I believed they were seeking to wrest from the South its dearest rights. But I never cherished toward them bitter or vindictive feelings, and I have never seen the day when I did not pray for them.

Robert E. Lee

Honoring Lee shows how little progress we have made toward regarding all people as equal. We might as well erect monuments to Klan leaders, to Benedict Arnold, to Axis Sally.

Anon

“So, class—Madison and Christopher, come over here!—from this hill you can see how the afternoon’s battle took shape and—Michael, tell Joshua to take his headphones off and listen to—What?—Well, then just take them off for him—how the afternoon’s battle took place and how touch and go it was—Yes, Hannah, I know I promised a bathroom break and there’s no need for that childish pantomime—for both sides, really, and how much depended on messages being delivered or not and—well, you could hear me fine if you’d come a little closer—where was I?”

“You were going to talk about Pickett’s charge.”

“Thank you, Andrew, though I think that charge has been overstressed, blown way out of proportion in importance. Just my opinion.”

Silence.

“Well, class, you saw the laser show recreation of the battle, what do you think?”

“I thought it was a great show, Ms. McMillan. Nice colors—blue and grey and all.”

“It was a fine show, Lauren, but as for Pickett’s charge?”

“I liked that part a lot.”

“OK. Good. So—Taylor and Ryan, would you join the group, please?—as for Pickett’s charge?”

“That’s why the North won the war, right, Ms. M?”

“Well, what do the rest of you think? Was that one charge so very consequential?”

Silence.

“What do you think, Alexis?”

“I think—“

“Yes?”

“I guess.”

“Well, lots of things happened that day and in battles before and after, so that—yes, Sarah?”

“I can’t understand why they have that monument over there.”

“To Pickett? Is there one?”

“No, to Robert E. Lee.”

“Well, we were onto the battle and Pickett, but OK?—will you all please gather closer and shut the hell up!—sorry—but Sarah just asked about the Lee monument, why it’s here. Here on that spot, you mean?”

“Here anywhere.”

“Oh, you mean…What do you mean?”

“I read about it, all the whitewashing of Lee, people thinking he was opposed to slavery, when that’s just a load of pigshit.”

“A load of…Can you explain, Sarah?”

“Lee owned slaves, mostly from his wife, who inherited them with orders in her dad’s will to free them, only Lee didn’t. He even sold some, broke up families.”

“What do the rest of you think of that?”

Silence. Finally, “What a dick!”

“I see. Thank you, Tyler. Yes, Sarah. There’s more?”

“A lot more. He took an oath to defend and protect the United States and then raised his hand against his country, showed himself a coward, an opportunist, and a cowardly liar.”

“Well, Sarah, you have to remember the times…”

“Like I said, he broke his oath. Almost half of the military officers in Virginia remained loyal, but Lee turned his back on his word and then tried to overturn the government he was sworn to uphold.”

“But Sarah…”

“I want to know, Ms. M., why he wasn’t tried and hanged, traitor that he clearly was. I read this historian…”

“Sarah, you think he should have been executed?”

“I’m just asking. The U. S. executed 140 deserters in World War 2 and they were just trying to save their asses. This is direct treason. It’s like having a statue of Heinrich Himmler at Auschwitz.”

“I see. What do you think, class? Tyler?”

“Sentimental nonsense. Sarah’s right. Having a monument to this miserable guy here, especially here, is disgusting.”

“Why especially here, Tyler?”

“Like they were saying in the show—“The High Water Mark of the Confederacy.” Those rocks right here, right here, right where we are: that’s as far as these inhuman people got, as slavery got. The high water mark, the emblem of the beautiful lost cause.”

“And you think? Yes, Sarah?”

“It’s the point where bigotry and hatred almost won.”

“So, the monument to Lee…?”

“Kept all the lies alive, made these shameless traitors into emblems of gallantry and—I don’t know—made them official, stamped them with approval.”

“Well, back to Pickett and the charge. You see, he came right up from over there and the carnage was horrible. Lee knew that he had this one last chance on the third day of the battle, and…Yes, Dylan?”

“I think you’re doing what Sarah and Tyler were saying.”

“Really, Dylan? How’s that?”

“I mean, who cares about the battle? All this about Pickett. It seems to me just what Sarah and Tyler were saying, you know.”

“Which was?”

“Sentimental horseshit.”

“The details of the battle are…?”

“Remember that Faulkner novel you had us read? I brought it with me. It’s all about this poison we kept alive by things like not hanging Robert E. Lee. Can I read this part, which is what I mean, the part is—will show what I mean?”

“OK. Go head and read it, Dylan.”

“OK:  “For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet, it not only hasn’t begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armistead and Wilcox look grave yet it’s going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn’t need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time….”

“Thank you, Dylan. That’s beautiful.”

“You think so, Ms. M? I think it’s disgusting. Makes me want to puke.”


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