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Tuesday, 05 September 2017 09:48


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George Santayana, the Spaniard, famously wrote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." How many of us remember this? Witness the events that continue to unfold following (what many feel to be the staged) conflicts in Charlottesville, VA for the proof of it. Does anyone read history any more? 
Apparently we must simply digest sound bites from the 6 O'clock News and graze the headlines from the corporate media. You can't get knowledge from a McDonald's drive-thru. Anyone who would want to associate Lee with white supremacy and slavery, and remove his mention from our history, is ignorant of history. Lee was a genuine patriot, who fittingly this County is named for.
When Lee was offered the Command of the Union forces (it is a fact, look it up), he turned it down as he felt that he was a Virginian first, and a citizen of what was considered a Sovereign state. 
Virginia had the right to remain in or secede from the Union as it saw fit. Lee would not raise arms against the Union, but would defend his state against any attack. Later, when Virginia chose to exercise its right to secede, Lee said, "I shall never bear arms against the Union, but it may be necessary for me to carry a musket in the defense of my native state, Virginia, in which case I shall not prove recreant to my duty." After all, the right of the people to change their form government is enshrined in the US Constitution (ever read that "historical" document?).
Remember this while you try to, lawfully or not, remove any evidence of Robert E. Lee from our collective history. Upon hearing a speech from then-President Franklin Pierce (whom almost no American will recall the name of), Lee responded with this thought upon slavery: "There are few, I believe, in this enlightened age, who will not acknowledge that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil." Rather than continue a war that he and many others saw could go on indefinitely, he chose to surrender at Appomattox, vowing in writing to never bear arms against the United States or "tender aid to its enemies." Lee spent his years after the cessation of war as President of Washington College in Virginia, which was later renamed Washington & Lee, where he continually encouraged reconciliation between South and North, as when he wrote that "all should unite in honest efforts to obliterate the effects of war and restore the blessings of peace."
There were obviously racists and white supremacists in the Confederate Army (as there also were in the Union Army), but no one who will take the time to inform themselves as to their own history can claim that Lee was one. Lee would not have condoned the actions of anyone in Charlottesville, regardless of their politics, who would bring harm to the people of this nation.
History testifies to that. He would not have tolerated what we know as terrorism today. He would likely have us consider the sources of this unrest, as he did in his times. 
Today, most of the people who we see acting the most reactionary, the most violently, are not doing so out of any personal opinion, but more as mercenaries. You can see advertisements for this kind of "work" on Craigslist, as appeared before the Charlottesville actions. 
Unfortunately, our country has endured a long history of this kind of undemocratic political activity. Taking advantage of peoples' historical lack of memory, and inciting them to go after something like statues of Robert E. Lee, is simply the latest instance of this.
Dave Bowman
Fort Myers
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