Categories
Education History

Confederate Monuments…barf.

Shenanigans are abounding, so you may have missed the fact that yesterday, September 8, Virginia took down a giant statue of Robert E. Lee. This is actually a huge moment, even though it may have reignited your sister’s boyfriend, Deuce, and his comments on how crazy the liberal agenda is getting. So, if you happen to find yourself arguing on the end of a facebook page…let me help you out.

You see…monuments, are not history. Monuments are statements, often statements about power. And a Robert E. Lee statue in the middle of Virginia was a statement of white supremacy. Full. Stop.

Let’s break it down.

In 1890 Virginia erected this massive statue of Robert E. Lee on what would become known as “monument avenue,” which featured a bunch of other confederate statues too. That year, 1890, is actually quite important to the story. By 1890, Reconstruction was over, and Jim Crow was beginning. Put simply, Jim Crow was racial segregation and white supremacy codified into law. In fact, a spike of Confederate monuments erected throughout the nation occurred between 1890 and 1920.

There were a lot of groups that funded and organized these monuments, but the Daughters of the Confederacy were one of the most prolific funders and organizers, and I also blame them for our current rhetoric regarding history in the classroom. Like, legit, they just lied about the Civil War and slavery and made it curriculum and history teachers still have to fight the general public about it to this day….

But I digress.

Ok…so what?

Confederate monuments (and honestly monuments in general) are not history, and we are not erasing history by bringing them down. Instead, we are reckoning with history. I’ve talked before about how history is simply a change, or lack of change, over time.

But, in the situation of Confederate monuments, it was a digression. The south erected monuments of Confederate leaders as a huge power play, a scare tactic if you will. These monuments were large, powerful, visible reminders that the south wanted (and codified) a white supremacist social hierarchy. Monuments were put up specifically to reinforce that hierarchy, and history was changed to fit a particular political narrative, that of the “lost cause“. Which, not coincidentally, also took hold in the 1890’s (remember I told you that date was important!).

So, if you happen to be in a fight with your crazy Aunt on facebook, or your sister’s boyfriend Deuce, have them consider these questions; what was the argument of that monument? What is the importance? What is the “ok…so what?” part of that monument? Is it really worth keeping up? Or, as is often the case, does the harm perpetuated by that monument outweigh everything else?

Because confederate monuments, they are about white supremacy, and they should all be removed. They aren’t history. If you want history, check out The American Yawp, an open source history textbook. BOOM, history done by historians! Wow!

Next, I hope Stone Mountain gets erased.

Categories
History

WWGWD?

What would George Washington do?

My very favorite person in the world is the person who, with no training and very little history knowledge, truly believes they know what the Founding Fathers would have done. They know in their heart of hearts that the FF’s definitely would have seen the world according to thier, 21st century view point.

If you haven’t caught on I’m being sarcastic. I hate those people. Your sisters boyfriend Deuce is one of those people.

With schools opening or about to open, the rhetoric about founding fathers, vaccines, masks, and the “spirit of 1776” is getting pretty heated. So, I thought I’d take a moment to really talk about what a Founding Father…arguably the Founding Father really did do when faced with a consequential decision.

Let me set the scene. It’s 1777, Georgie has just taken a minor victory at the Battle of Princeton. His Continental Army, however, is sick and dying, in fact 90% are dying from disease, with small pox being a big killer.

Necessity not only authorizes but seems to require the measure, for should the disorder infect the Army . . . we should have more to dread from it, than from the Sword of the Enemy

George Washington

Most of the men in the Continental Army had not been exposed to smallpox. But, it’s a war, men coming together from all over the country, along with British and German soldiers, opened the door for disease to spread, the army being non-immunes and all. Bowing to circumstances, George Washington (unlike our own politicians) showed leadership. In February of 1777 he wrote to Congress informing them of his mass inoculation plan, and managed to vaccinate up to 2/3rds of the Continental Army.

Ok…So What?

Initially GW did not want to mandate vaccination. He was incredibly aware of the significance of vaccination and immunity, but immunizing the army would take time, and would weaken his forces, so he didn’t initially mandate it. However, when Small Pox became a big problem for his troops, GW understood that larger measures would have to be taken. His decision to inoculate most of the Continental Army (along with their immunity to malaria, which the British soldiers did not share) was likely critical to winning the Revolutionary War, and helped build this country into a place full of toxic individuality.

All jokes aside, I do believe this is an important point to make.

So much rhetoric floats around about what the Founding Fathers meant, or what they would have done. Except, here, we actually have data from history. We are not guessing at what George Washington thought. We can look at his actions, and see what he did.

He mandated vaccination. He built hospitals, and he got the army immunized. Why? Because his people were dying, and he was losing a war.

What’s also important is that he set a precedent for what leaders should do in the midst of a pandemic. Maybe we should follow in his example. I can’t say it’s what he would have wanted…but I can tell you it’s what he did, which I think is much more powerful.

Citations: https://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/GW&smallpoxinoculation.html and https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/washington-inoculates-army with some Mosquito Empires by J.R. Mcneill thrown in.