The Confederate Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery is being torn down.

After a short legal battle, the Biden administration will continue its plan to remove the statue, which is over a century old, from the cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia.

Will this monument be treated with care once it’s removed? I find that doubtful. 

The statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, was supposed to go to a museum. It went to a “museum” all right—a museum that melted down the statue and beheaded it in the dead of night.

The demolition should have been halted permanently. Arlington’s Confederate Memorial, where then-President Barack Obama sent a wreath just over a decade ago, should have been left where it was and remained a lasting tribute to the restoration of the Union.

The Biden administration’s move to tear down the Confederate Memorial is an ominous sign for the future of our republic.

The monument to Confederate war dead at Arlington, a cemetery built on land that belonged to Lee, was not a tribute to racism, slavery, or the Confederate cause, as many contend.

The statue was built more in the spirit of President Abraham Lincoln, who had “Yankee Doodle” and “Dixie” played at the White House upon receiving news of Lee’s surrender to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. 

Malice toward none and charity for all. North and South, we are all Americans again.

In 1865, that was hard to accept for many. By 1900, much had changed. The idea of reconciliation and rebuilding was not just a fanciful idea, it was becoming a reality.

This was in part due to wise leadership from men who fought on both sides of the Civil War.

In 1898, President William McKinley, a Union veteran of the Civil War, made a speech for the “Peace Jubilee” following the end of the Spanish-American War. 

McKinley said that

… in the spirit of fraternity we should share with you in the care of the graves of Confederate soldiers … Sectional feeling no longer holds back the love we feel for each other. The old flag again waves over us in peace with new glories.

This quotation is on the page describing the Confederate Memorial on Arlington National Cemetery’s website. How long will it stay there?

In August, former Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., made a call to save the memorial in The Wall Street Journal. Webb explained how construction of the monument to reconciliation came together, in large part because of McKinley, who was insistent that Union and Confederate veterans play a significant role in the Spanish-American War:

McKinley understood the Civil War as one who had lived it, having served four years in the 23rd Ohio Infantry, enlisting as a private and discharged in 1865 as a brevet major. He knew the steps to take to bring the country fully together again. As an initial signal, he selected three Civil War veterans to command the Cuba campaign.

Isn’t it interesting that a Union veteran who literally had faced the Confederacy in battle was more apt to forgive his enemies than modern-day ideologues separated from the war by over 150 years?

Webb noted that one top commander in Cuba was “‘Fighting Joe’ Wheeler, the legendary Confederate cavalry general, [who] led the cavalry units in Cuba after being elected to Congress in 1880 from Alabama and working hard to bring national reconciliation.”

Was Wheeler a Confederate or an American? The world didn’t stop in 1865. 

McKinley called for Americans to set aside old feelings of enmity and embrace our shared future destiny as a nation united. From there, the American century began, and we all should be thankful for it.

The idea that the Confederate Memorial at Arlington was made to reinforce “white supremacy” is a reductionist anachronism. There are many who argue that reconciliation itself is racist, because it happened between white Americans at a time when civil rights for black Americans hadn’t been fully achieved.

If that’s the case, shall we not pay tribute to our victory in World War II, accomplished decades before the Civil Rights Act and with a still-segregated military?

What we are seeing happen with Arlington’s Confederate Memorial and countless other memorials and statues around the country is the ideology of commentator-author Ibram X. Kendi applied to history. Literally everything is broken down to “racist” or anti-racist.”

This is the spirit of the “racial reckoning” that was wholly adopted by American institutions in 2020. They will use it to demolish every part of our past, including the Constitution.

If it wasn’t obvious years ago, it should be completely obvious now that those who drove the destruction of the Confederate Memorial at Arlington would like to tear down heroes of the Union too. They would like to make a clean sweep of our past.

They will destroy whatever they think they can get away with destroying. Columbus, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Lincoln, and all the other greats from the history of American civilization are on the chopping block. At no point will the statue-destroying fanatics be content with what’s been removed and decide that enough has been done.

Appeasement will simply abet more destruction.

Arlington’s Confederate Memorial was created to consecrate the idea that the Union was whole again. Tearing it down sends a signal that the America the previous generation built will be deconstructed—just like the statue—and that resolving our differences comes through crushing and erasing our political opponents.

The spirit that animates the statue-destroying fanatics, if it had been the prevailing attitude at the end of the Civil War and the years that followed, would have left us without a country. We’d be a series of shattered, petty banana republics fighting for scraps in a world that would have passed us by.

Those of us who would like to see another American century need to resist calls to destroy our past. If the history-erasing ethos continues to be promoted by our institutions, that apocalyptic outcome may still be our fate after all.

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