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Discussing the Tough Stuff

civil war confederate monuments current affairs history politics racism tough discussions

Discussing the Tough Stuff

This past week has been a rough one for most of America. Conversations are tough and emotionally-laden. The showdown and tragedies in Charlottesville, SC has all of us questioning society, our roles and responsibilities.


I feel like I have to share some of the conversations in my house. For the most part, the Renaissance Man and I share similar views or often times, one of us is passionate about a subject and the other just listens and accepts because we don't have an opinion on the subject.
*I seriously don't know about all the nuances of the Star Wars genre...and furthermore, I don't care!

This week we found a subject that we view differently and there have been some tough discussions about the demolition of Confederate monuments.
I'm happy with the decision but the Renaissance Man was a little disgruntled about the 'erasing of history'. 

Now before you judge you have to know a few things about the amazing man that I'm honored to spend my life with.

  1. He's a work in progress, just like the rest of us.
  2. He is not racist. His prejudices (hey now, we all have them) run along the lines of work ethics and responsible living or the lack there of and those transcend skin color, religion, sexual identity/preference, and nationality.
  3. He doesn't pay too much attention to the news. Working an average of 70 hours a week forces you to prioritize the most important things like sleep and family. 

However, lately, he's been listening to AM news radio on his way to and from work. Last week he voiced his concern about the loss of these monuments. He's kind of a history buff with an affinity for anything Civil War. It was the one thing he shared with his dad. 

I never understood why they were put up in the first place but I also didn't take family trips to visit Civil War battlefields during the destruction of my own family.
I didn't experience my parents stubborn and petty disagreements with their siblings turn into a lifetime feud.
I never 'got' the tragic understanding of brother against brother.

So suffice to say, I can view the issue without an emotional lens.
And he, being a Taurus, stubbornly sticks to his emotional bonds, for a while anyway. Because in the end, he realizes that people are more important than opinions. His own experience taught him that.

Over the course of the last week, we've had the following dialogs. Just a minute or two each. We don't argue often and if we do we're laughing while we argue. Also, if either of us is angry we walk away until we're not.

WHAT! How strange!

I know, but here's what we know about ourselves. When we're angry, we have a tendency to say things we don't mean, like really hurtful things, things that we would regret. I think this is true for both of us, we would rather die than to hurt the other.  

We both drew the short stick in our effe'd up first marriages, so let's not make that mistake again, right!

Anyway, read these as light-hearted disagreements, even though I get a little snarky. He thinks my sass is adorable!

*********

Him: “Did you hear that a bunch of cities are secretly dismantling Confederate monuments in the middle of the night?”
Me: “Ya, and I don't blame them for wanting to avoid the protests. No one wants their city to be the next Charlottesville.
Him: “What? You're okay with it? I'da thought you being the history lover that you'd be appalled at taking down historical monuments.
Me looking confused: “The ones they're taking down are honoring Confederate soldiers. The Confederacy, that tried to secede from the Union because they wanted to keep slaves. It's offensive to have monuments to them. Why would you want them up?”
Him: They're about the men who fought and died, brother against brother...its history. How will people learn about it?
Me: From books.

******
He says: “They're erasing history”
I point out: “History belongs in museums, books, and documentaries, not really in public spaces.”

*******
He says: You can't just take down a statue or plaque that references a time in our history because you don't like that part. How will people learn about it?
My Irish starts showing: Oh you're right, Like back when we were in high school and Berlin tore down the wall that divided their city. Kids these days will never know about how people were kept prisoners in their own country, lost to their family who managed to sneak across. New parents holding up their babies so Grandparents can see them over the wall, 20 yards away.  It'll be just like the library of Alexandria: Lost to History!”
He gives me a side-eye: They left parts of the Wall up as a monument”
Me: “YES! A monument to the time in their history when they came together to topple Communism and a reminder to never let political ideology divide their country! Not a monument to the Government officials that were sore about losing out on killing more Jews.”

********
He says: General Lee was a Union General first.
Me: It doesn't matter. At the end of the war, he was on the losing side. And the statue they're taking down commemorates his time as a Confederate General.
He counters: He did great things for the Union.
I reply: Hitler did great things for Germany before he did horrible things...There are no statues to Hitler.

********

He says: But what about the monuments to Washington and Jefferson? They were slave owners. Are they going to take those down, too?
I consider this and reply: I get that. Our founding fathers weren't perfect, but I think if the monument commemorates the good things those men did, the things that benefited America, the monuments should stay. And if the monument commemorates things they did that subjected and oppressed a group of people they should go.

*******
Him: I just get a bad feeling about this...
Me: What do you mean?
Him: Like if they start taking down monuments, even worse things will happen.
Me: Oh! You mean like how they abolished slavery and have since targeted black men to fill up private prisons to benefit the rich investors?

*******
He says: “Those statues are works of art.”
I reply: “Actually many of them were mass produced in the north and are identical to the Northern monuments dedicated to the Union soldier....you know the side that won!”

******

He says: “A lot of those were put up by the Sisters of the Confederacy....the daughters and granddaughters of the families that lost soldiers in the war....”
My eyebrows are hovering near my hairline: “The Sisters of the Confederacy...not the Daughters of the American Revolution or the Sisters of the United States..do you hear yourself?...The Sisters of the Confederacy, a group of pissed off white women who now have to do their own cooking and cleaning.....”

He laughs, he knows I'm right. Ruby Gloom is laughing at us, too. We very rarely disagree so this is entertaining to her.
He looks over at her and says: “Want to see Mommy get kicked out of my kitchen?”
I look at her and say: “Want to watch Mommy turn around in a huff with her nose in the air and saunter out of the kitchen because everyone knows I'm right!”

Fifteen minutes later I come back to refill my coffee cup. The Renaissance Man has both kids washing the kitchen floor as he supervises. One has a wet mop and the other a dry mop.
He looks at me and mimics my last argument, “The Sisters of the Confederacy are just a bunch of angry white women who have to do their own cooking and cleaning, she says while sitting at the computer with a cup of coffee in her hand...”

Ruby Gloom cracks up, she gets the irony.

I'm working!" I yell in his direction, "...and it's called parenting. You're doing a great job, Dad! Keep it up!”

I'm fortunate that we can disagree without the threat of violence.Many women can't. I'm fortunate that we can agree to disagree and that neither one of us has to win an argument. *Although I do believe I won this one.*

Sometimes we let our emotional attachment get in the way of compassion and understanding. Not everyone opposed to taking those monuments down are racist, white supremacist. Not everyone who wants them down is trying to erase history. 

This is an amazing opportunity to actually learn about each other but it requires an open mind and a sincere interest in the other people's reasoning. 

I've watched my husband shift over the course of this week. Yes, he stubbornly tried to win his argument for keeping the monuments but he's also realizing that his affinity for the soldiers has more to do with his own standing in his family.
I think he's realizing how those monuments are viewed by others and how offensive they really are and he might not have if we didn't have those conversations. 





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