If denouncing Nazis is the easiest “gimme-putt” in politics, the president’s first attempt lipped out, and his comeback putt has rolled off the green.
Ever since the recent tragic events in Charlottesville, Trump has displayed dramatic swings in temperament.
One day he will be on message, followed by a day of angry tweets and heated exchanges with the media.
To thankfully put the golf analogy behind us: Anger can be a golfer’s worst enemy.
The talking points prepared in defense of the president are: The counterprotesters are the problem; true, if the counterprotesters had not shown up, the angry men carrying citronella tiki torches and screaming horrible things about Jews would have had no one to beat on and run down with a car.
The counterprotesters needed to stand up to evil hatred. Equally important, the president of the United States needed to oppose the hate speech coming from Neo-Nazis, the Klan and other scary white hombre-dudes.
He did not!
The president will often remark when defending his position, “I won, and Hillary lost.”
We are all painfully aware of that fact. Using that “logic,” I would like to point out that the United States won War War II, and the Nazis did not. The Union won the Civil War, and the Confederacy did not.
Gen. Robert E. Lee was a soldier, and soldiers fight wars. Sadly, he fought for the wrong side of history and the wrong side of morality. I honestly believe he was defending Virginia and not slavery, but the two are inexorably attached.
The first book I remember reading was “Meet Robert E. Lee.” When I read it, I was too young to understand the complexities of the Civil War and why hatred and racism still existed in the Washington, D.C., of my youth. I now know President John F. Kennedy sent my father to Birmingham, and I know my parents sent my sister and me to a Quaker School because of its openminded views on race. They were concerned.
I wasn’t too young to understand that Robert E. Lee was a good soldier and a true gentleman — two qualities that were clearly missing at the rallies in Virginia.
After college, I loved and lived with a girl from Lexington — Lee was a distant relative. I confess I am an admirer of this truly conflicted man.
The folks who march with menacing patio torches, chanting Nazi slogans about Jews, were not there to defend Lee’s honor. They were there to burn the surrender papers of Appomattox. There is no evidence of “Jews will not replace us” as a battle cry of the Confederacy.
I recognize that others with better understanding of the great war and its causes may have a visceral response to this historic figure, but eliminating his role in history would be a sorry mistake. We need not worship him, but we must remember him. If you will, put him in a museum and not on a pedestal.
My old friend Jon went to Washington and Lee University, and when I asked him for his thoughts, his first reaction was that both men would (today) be disgusted by the Nazis and the KKK. Upon further reflection, Jon said he thought Gen. Lee would support the removal of his statue if it would foster healing.
Lee’s family agrees. After the war, Lee did oppose all Civil War memorials because of the cost, but more important, because they would not help the nation heal and move on. His family agrees. Do not honor him by celebrating slavery.
Trump claims that not all the protesters were bad, but rather that some were historians and preservationists. It is hard to believe Shelby Foote coming to save a statue of Lee would have remained to defame the Jews. The idea of Trump the preservationist is laughable.
Here is a fun story:
At the Trump golf club along the Potomac River in Virginia, there is a plaque that reads: “Many great men, both of the North and South, died at this spot. The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as ‘The River of Blood.’”
It never happened. Historians all agree: This battle never occurred. It is “fake history.” Sad!
When the self-proclaimed leader of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, says the protesters are fulfilling Trump’s promises, we all must pause and ask ourselves:
To what did Gen. Lee surrender? For what did Dr. King die?
Where is our Appomattox?
What will be our Gettysburg?