I’ve lived and newspapered in four North Carolina towns in the past 40-odd years. And this is the only one that’s not now caught up in controversy over a Confederate monument.

That’s mostly because Southern Pines, like neighboring Pinehurst, didn’t even come into existence as a town until it sprang up three decades after the end of the Civil War. Therefore, unlike so many neighboring communities, it has never had to try to come to terms with such a terrible past.

But in much of the rest of the country, this issue has now achieved front-and-center status at this time of renewed racial awareness, as well it might. We can no longer do what so many of us have done for a century or so — to look the other way and blithely tolerate the presence of these entities in the very governmental hearts of so many states, counties and cities.

Take the pretty little town of Morganton, over on the edge of the Blue Ridge. After I moved there from Miami way back in 1973 (the point at which I became a North Carolinian), it didn’t take me long to get used to the statue of a Southern soldier standing there atop a marble tower on the Burke County courthouse grounds. Hardly gave it a second thought.

In recent days, though, there has been a spirited debate in Morganton about the possible removal of the monument — which, according to Mayor Ronnie Thompson, “bothers a lot of people.”

Last year, a midnight protester climbed up and spattered the soldier’s face with silver paint. So far, that soldier is holding his ground, though the topic seems unlikely to go away.

Then there’s the Cleveland County seat of Shelby, less than an hour’s drive south of Morganton, my home in the early 1980s. It, too, has had a statue of a Confederate soldier standing on its courthouse square for more than a century, alertly facing north with rifle in hand. And because of it, the atmosphere in this place that bills itself as “the City of Pleasant Living” has been a little less than pleasant lately.

“The monument has become a point of focus,” said a recent report, “as groups continue gathering uptown following the death of George Floyd and efforts to not only remove the monument, but other vestiges of racism, have gained traction. … For many, the statue serves as a visible symbol of the South’s darker past, when the Ku Klux Klan was active in Cleveland County.”

Last but certainly not least is the larger city of Salisbury, halfway between Charlotte and Greensboro — where things have now moved far beyond mere discussion.

As I wrote three years ago, I had deeply mixed feelings about the powerful monument standing there on an island in the middle of the city’s main drag. This statue, which I described as “a stunning work of art,” stood — and still stands — just yards from the Salisbury Post building, where I worked from 1982 to 1993.

“This was no rigid, run-of-the-mill statue glorifying some general,” I wrote. “It was — and still is — a beautiful and evocative sculpture showing a winged angel stoically supporting a fallen young soldier.”

But that phrase “and still is” won’t apply much longer. After years of argument, which in recent months has grown dangerous and threatened to surge out of control, the Salisbury City Council voted unanimously the other day to declare the statue “an ongoing threat to public safety.” The town gave the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy 10 days to agree to a deal that will relocate the monument to a more out-of-the-way spot in a cemetery several blocks away.

As of this writing, such monuments have come down — or are about to — in well more than a dozen cities across the United States, from Alexandria, Va., all the way down and across to Houston, Texas.

In just the past few days, protesters pulled down two statues of Confederate soldiers in Raleigh — after which Gov. Roy Cooper ordered the removal of three others. A giant statue of Robert E. Lee came down in Washington, D.C. More seem likely to fall in coming days, given the mood.

And what should be done with such sculptures once they have come down? That is a difficult question. Up in Chapel Hill, I’ve heard endless arguments about what should ultimately happen to “Silent Sam,” the Confederate statue that protesters brought down after weeks of protest a couple of years ago.

To me, the ideal answer is not to topple or break up or deface or try to burn these offensive relics. Instead, why not follow the Salisbury example and just move them from such a provocative central location to a more secluded and less confrontational one. If not a cemetery, then perhaps a museum or gallery of some kind.

In any case, they’re clearly the last thing we need daily staring down at us in such a tense and troubled time as this.

Steve Bouser is the retired editor and Opinion editor of The Pilot. Contact him at bouser@email.unc.edu.

(20) comments

Peyton Cook

A Pew survey shows that a vast majority of the individuals making up the often destructive mobs are Democrat or lean that way. Only one of six are black. Most are affluent whites who have been brainwashed by Marxist professors who believe that the past history of America should be erased and recreated as a Marxist utopia where everybody would be equally miserable except the leaders. The silence of leading Democrats to abhor the destruction and injury and death is very obvious. The refusal of Senate Democrats to refuse to even debate Sen. Scott’s bill even if it contains most of what the Democrats want. They do not want to reform policing, but do see it as a wedge to win the election. How cynical can they get? Certain individuals will not except the obvious but this is not surprising. They only read or watch obviously “fake” news outlets like The NY Times, Washington Post and CNN and NBC, ABC, or CBS. They should give Fox News and the WSJ.

Mark Hayes

If the Jewish population in this country are able to accept that Wernher von Braun was a " good Nazi " immortalized by his bust in Huntsville Alabama, then I guess the rest of us should have been able to accept the fact most Confederate soldiers were only doing their Military duties, not acting out of racism. Can't paint over having a former Nazi SS Major being hailed as a hero of our space program when he belonged to a branch of the Nazi regime that put Jews and other to death by gassing them. His " employees/factory workers " all prisoners, working them to death in factories that were responsible for the making of rockets that killed thousands of British victims. If one can accept that major Wernfer von Braun was just doing his duty, then a few Monuments of Confederate soldiers doing their duty should be viewed the same. If not, let's call for the removal of the von Braun bust, and any other memories are in his name. I don't expect that to happen, as the Jewish population seems to have overlooked the past and moved on into the future.

Jim Tomashoff

Who says that the "...Jewish population in this country are able to accept that Wernher von Braun was a 'good Nazi.' " As Tom Lehrer noted over 60 years ago, "...once the Rockets go up who cares where they come down. That's not my Department says Wernher von Braun." Full song here: https://www.google.com/search?q=tom+lehrer+wernher+von+braun&oq=tom&aqs=chrome.0.69i59j69i57j46l4j0j69i60.3199j0j8&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

So you're also saying that Confederate soldiers, (and officers too?) "...were simply doing their duty" when they took up arms against the legitimate government of the United States? In fact, they committed treason as the action is explicitly defined in the U.S. Constitution. That they weren't charged with treason and prosecuted was a political decision made by U.S. Government, not a legal decision.

Mark Hayes

Jim, How foolish of me to even post, you win. I'm just some uneducated, rural rube, trailer trash, hillbilly, no teeth, can't eat corn on the cob, using Confederate Flags for window dressing and wall coverings, that and whatever else you have commented about me in the past. I certainly will research the sites you suggested, after I do a few chores. Gotta slop them there hogs and milk them cows, and after that, then I have to go clean up the empty beer cans and spray down the trailer walls from my tobacco chewing red neck neighbors who kept missing their chewing juice jar at last nights pig wrestling competition. I appreciate you sharing all that book learning, seems you have become the online professor here on The Pilot Opinion site . Seems if you don't know it, well it ain't worth knowing.

Jim Tomashoff

Ah Mark, there's no need to run yourself down like you have. I don't actually begrudge your upbringing. Last I heard it's difficult to pick your parents. In any event, you did make a foolish statement though. I don't pretend to speak for any Jews, nor should you. If there are 20 million Jews in the world you might find more one opinion regarding the late Dr. von Braun. But regarding the good Doctor, among other NAZI scientists brought to the U.S., might I suggest you read a book (there are several) about Operation Paperclip. I read one book about it a couple of decades ago, but a lot of info has been declassified since then, so I have another book written quite recently about Paperclip on my "to read list" in the near future. I look forward to learning some details about the Program that I was not previously aware of.

Mark Hayes

Jim, don't bring my parents into this. we're done here.

Mark Hayes

No, thought about it, can't have you using my deceased parents as part of your condescending comments, we're not done.

Mark Hayes

Jim, I had to step away for a brief time to consider how to deal with you once again. Having a difficult time getting past that " parents " comment, I have commented myself with total disregard for some participants, I never drag family into insult, even at 70 years old I still get pissed when my family is mentioned, in any manner. I realize insults are probably something you grew up being the victim, although as well insulated you must have been, they more than likely went unnoticed or ignored. As an intellectual prodigy, and with all of your academic achievements, the most fascinating thing of all, your ability to have gotten away with being such an abrasive and condescending individual, most would have not been able to escape the consequences of being such a wise mouth punk. You either had the speed of a Cheetah, able to out run your aggressors, which we know, those chubby little legs and little bitty feet are not built for speed, especially holding up that bell shaped body, or you may be a Master of some type of Martial Arts and able to down an opponent with a single blow to a well placed part of the body, and we know that is not the case, so what has been your secret of success, other than hiding behind a keyboard and screen . I'm done with you and I hope you just avoid me.

Jim Tomashoff

Oh for crying out loud Mark, that no one can choose their parents is an old, old reply and I was not trying to insult you or your family with that comment. For the record, you've been making highly personal attacks on me since day one. As your most recent diatribe proves.

ken leary

Wow Jim, you should be honored, you've elicited from Mark his magnum opus of rejoinders. Stunning

Peyton Cook

I will agree that there were members from several groups involved in violence. All violence should be stamped out. Both are anarchists and have no place in our society or nation. Can we agree on this?

Peyton Cook

We can not erase history. Unfortunately, many millennials have no real history of the United States. They have only a warped version taught in high school and by Marxist professors in universities and colleges.

Jim Tomashoff

Peyton on millennials: "They have only a warped version taught in high school and by Marxist professors in universities and colleges." Oh Peyton, it's not the sixties anymore. There are few true Marxist professors anymore. Except perhaps in the business schools were they teach next generation industrialists how to get rich and stay rich using corporate socialism, aka, Republicans.

Kent Misegades

The South was invaded by the North to prevent it from exercising its Constitutional right of secession and taking with it 70% of the annual revenue of the federal government. It was not fought over slavery, and you could fill a book with the many statements by leading statesmen on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line confirming that - including Abraham Lincoln. The statues are to the simple soldiers and their leaders who defended their sovereign states, which in 1861 had much greater significance to most than the federal government. The anarchists of Antifa and BLM behind the Taliban-style attacks will not stop at statues commemorating the Confederate dead. It won’t be long and they’ll go after Lincoln when they discover his plans to deport freed shaves to Liberia, or even Martin Luther King when they learn he was a Republican. The left and people like this author have created a Frankenstein monster by implicitly supporting thugs. As in the original story, Frankenstein eventually turns on his creator.

Jim Tomashoff

As usual, Kent lies. The South did not have a Constitutional right of secession. Further, there is absolutely no evidence that either antifa or the BLM are anarchists or are responsible for most of the violence pertaining to recent protests, nor is there evidence that they are solely responsible to bringing down statues of confederate soldiers. Lastly Lincoln did not have a plan to deport freed slaves. He ruminated privately that voluntary moves by freed slaves could be supported and facilitated by the federal government, which is far short of a "plan" to do so. So like his President, Kent is a constant pathological liar and should be required to produce citations whenever he asserts "facts" (frankly that would be an excellent requirement for all who make assertions of facts in their comments)."

Peyton Cook

There is plenty of evidence of information that Black Lives Matter and other anarchists are responsible for the violence. Lincoln did not recognize the secession of the Confederate States. His goal was the unity of all states. He only issued the Emancipation Proclamation effective 1 January 1863 and only for slaves in Confederate-held territory.

Jim Tomashoff

Peyton, there is also plenty of evidence that white far-right wing individuals blended into the body of large demonstrations and initiated violence against police, smashed windows of businesses, participated in looting stores and began efforts to pull down statues.

So here, i'll do something that neither you nor Kent rarely ever do, here are three such sources: "A white supremacist channel on Telegram encouraged followers to incite violence during police brutality protests by 'shooting in a crowd,' according to internal DHS memo," This is from Trump's DHS, which found this to be true. Here's where you can find this nugget of information; https://www.businessinsider.com/white-supremacist-telegram-channel-encourages-violence-george-floyd-protests-2020-6;

Or see : "Experts say that in many states, far-right extremists, fresh from recruiting at “open states” rallies during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, continue to inject themselves into the protests, creating a potential powder keg as they mix with Black Lives Matter demonstrators...Devin Burghart, president of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, said his organization has found evidence of Boogaloo and other far-right extremist groups at 40 protests related to Floyd’s death, including some in Kansas City and Wichita." https://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article243553662.html

Or this: "Former FBI agent and CNN commentator, Josh Campbell wrote, that Minnesota “authorities have been monitoring alleged criminals online, including postings by suspected white supremacists trying to incite violence.” https://www.justsecurity.org/70497/far-right-infiltrators-and-agitators-in-george-floyd-protests-indicators-of-white-supremacists/.

I know generically what Kent and Peyton's response will be to such articles: "All lies put out by the mainstream media in a massive conspiracy with the Deep State and organized by George Soros." Right gentlemen?

Peyton Cook

President Lincoln did not recognize the secession of the Southern States. The Confederate government seized US forts in the seceded States and attempted to resupply Federal coastal forts such as Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor. The first shots where fired by Confederate artillery on Fort Sumter. President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers. The remaining Southern states, including Virginia, seceded. Four years of war resulted.

Jim Tomashoff

Peyton, I'll give you this, you've always had a firm grasp of the obvious.

Peyton Cook

Thank you for the less than sincere remark. Many others don’t know this because of poor teaching of our history.

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