I’ve always felt sympathy for people – it isn’t any skill of mine: I’ve always had it. Though I can, at times, be cross with people, for the most part I am sympathetic to their plight. Perhaps this is partially an outgrowth of my own melancholy nature, but I can always see things from the other guy’s point of view, especially if they have suffered.
Soldiers suffer, a lot – and, so, have always been an object of my pity. This goes for all soldiers in all times. Doesn’t matter who they fought for: the average man at arms, as it were, always deserves respect simply for the fact that he did his duty, and suffered for it. Commanders get a more subtle judgement. One thing I’ve learned by long study of history is that most people placed in command are simply unfit for it. This is especially true of military command – and the dangers are varied for such people. They can love their men too much, and so waste opportunities for victory. They can also be too contemptuous of their men, and so lead them to unnecessary slaughter. But love them too much, or too little, there still stands the fact that they were the one’s forced to decide life and death issues, and everyone should have something in their heart that goes out to people landed in that. And for those few in command who actually have any business being there, the heart really goes out to them – because they not only have immense responsibility, but they are also, no matter how good they are, going to make some horrific mistakes which will send men to needless death.
I bring this up because we’ve revived the whole Confederate Statue issue via Trump’s recent comments about the Charlottesville incident. All around social media, I’ve seen our liberals really rip on Robert E. Lee: to listen to them, the Waffen SS was morally his superior. Of course, that is just how the left is: when they decide to pour out filth on someone, they go all in. To be sure, there is much to complain about in Lee. He did betray his oath to the Constitution, which was superior to any loyalty he felt for Virginia. While a tactician of genius, he had no strategic sense and so all of his bloody campaigns were fought, as it were, in void, with no real object other than the negative one of getting the Army of the Potomac out of Virginia. He also refused to quit when the game was up, and so prolonged the agony by at least a year. After the war, he more lent his immense prestige to the absurd “Lost Cause” ideology rather than using it to heal the divide (as, for instance, Confederate General James Longstreet did). But, with all that, he still stands as a sympathetic figure to anyone with an ounce of human decency.
There is a grandeur about the man which cannot be denied. It must have been astonishing when he was alive, because if we can be a bit awed by him at this remove, imagine what it must have been like for those around him when he was alive? His troops would have followed him anywhere. I figure every man in Pickett’s Charge knew it was a false position to be in – it was obvious before it happened that it would be a massacre. But, they went anyway – because Lee asked them to. Not many people can command that sort of love and devotion. And he failed, which adds to the pity one feels for him: people who strive at great cost and still come up short always earn at least that: pity.
Additionally, he’s also very long since dead. You can’t do anything to him. Whatever sins you want to lay at his feet, it is all over and done with. He’s dead and God has rendered perfect judgement on him. Wherever he is in the hereafter, it is precisely where he should be. It profits no one to try to attack a corpse – the corpse doesn’t feel it and the attacker gains nothing. This is why, I think, we have the old saying about not speaking ill of the dead: there’s simply no point to it. Only in the matter of general historical study should a dead person be examined for both good and bad, and then not in order to condemn the dead, but the enlighten the living. To take the most evil person you can study: if you are setting out to write a biography of Hitler to show what a rat bastard he was, then you are wasting your time. Possibly even harming yourself by drinking from that cup of bitterness. The only fit thing to talk about regarding Hitler is the object lessons: how did he come to be? Why did he do what he did? This sort of thing allows us to learn and, perhaps, prevent a repeat in the future. But to, as it were, piss on his grave, endlessly, is a pointless exercise.
But pissing on graves is pretty much what the left wants us to do these days – and I perceive it not so much as an attack on flawed historical figures (there’s no other sort, after all), but as an attack on history. On memory, when you get down to it. I’ve no particular concern about the fate of a statue of some long-dead Confederate, but I am intensely concerned that we retain our national memory. As a Conservative, I can view it no other way. After all, the more deeply you dive into Conservatism, the more crucial historical memory becomes. We must know, as best we can, how we came to be – good and bad – or we won’t even know why things are as they are. The left wants us to have no memory of what truly happened. They want a cartoonish view of the world where everything was bad until the left came along and fixed it all up. History began yesterday, when a leftist showed up to help you – don’t even think about digging back further than that! After all, the only reason you’d want to is because you’re hankering for the evil of the past, right? That, at least, is where I think the left is heading with this. Give them enough time and power, and they will topple Washington’s monument and rename our Capitol City…they will wash out everything we ever did, so that they can better rule an ignorant people.
We dare not let them get away with it – or, more accurately, get away with it any longer. Plenty of youngsters these days, after a decade or two in leftist propaganda mills, already have no knowledge of the past (oddly enough, I think this is why so many youngsters fall for various neo-Nazi ideologies: not knowing anything about either the Nazis or those who fought them, they fall easily for clever neo-Nazi lies about the past). The place to start is to draw the line: for a bit of shorthand, I’m insisting that no historical marker of any type, if it has been in place for 50 or more years, should be moved or modified in any way. You can add stuff around it, if you like, but you can’t change it and you can’t take it away. There for 50 years, there forever. The best part about such a program is that it would spark the fight we need to have here – a fight between those who want informed people who remember, and those who want ignorant people swayed by the latest lie. I think we’d win that fight.