Removing the swastika from German buildings and public display after World War II did not stop the rise of the neo-Nazis. The refusal of the Japanese to teach about World War II did not eradicate their war record from history. Crushing the German state and economy after World War I merely led to the rise of the Nazis. Removing all things Confederate from the U.S. culture will merely drive the studies and discussions of everything Confederate underground where it will fester and spawn more extremist Neo-Confederates, and more misguided hate.
The danger of suppressing symbols and memorials of the past, which offends us is a threat to the very freedoms we hold so dear – freedom of speech, freedom of discussion, freedom to express ideas both good and bad. Ideas and ideologies are like mercury – the more a person tries to destroy them, the further they disperse, only to coalesce again.
Maybe, instead of removing everything Confederate from our society, we should use this controversy to foster further research and discussion. Has anyone really done a quantitative study of Civil War letters, diaries, recollections, and reminiscences to find out why men from both side joined the respective armies? Has anyone really bothered to explore in depth the rampant divisiveness in our society before and during the war?
More importantly, as a nation, we need to teach history the way it was and not the way we want it to be. What would happen if we stopped viewing history as a thesis statement, which has to be proven? As an extended term paper where the author has a conclusion to prove? What if we had schools, which taught history without any objective other than to explore the past through the eyes of the participants rather than through a cookie cutter curriculum? What if history really were an important subject in this country? What would happen then?
I do not know. All I know is that when we as Americans refuse to listen to an opposing view, when we cover our eyes, mouths, and ears to block out those things, which offend us; when we surrender our right to exercise free speech because it is not politically correct to do so, we will succumb to tyranny and dictatorship. We will throw away the most precious liberty we have for which so many men, women, and children have laid down their lives.
There is nothing done in secret which will not be revealed. Driving our history underground will create a “new” history with no roots in the past or in the truth. A light hidden under a basket still burns and the flame will eventually light a fire with potential harm to the person holding it down. Freedom of speech does not mean only allowing the conversations with which we agree. If we muzzle the mouths of those we oppose and offend us, eventually those whom we have opposed and offended too shall eventually silence us.