Showing 1 - 5 of 5 posts found matching keyword: confederacy
Tuesday 22 December 2020
Four days before Christmas, while the nation was busy with other, bigger problems, the Virginia-sponsored statue of Robert E. Lee was quietly removed from the U.S. Capitol.
Each state has two statues in the Capitol, most in the National Statuary Hall. But the hall isn't large enough for 100 statues, so some had been moved to other locations, including the Crypt below the Rotunda. It's called the Crypt because it was originally intended to be the final resting place of the mortal remains of America's patron saint: George Washington. That made it a fitting place for a statue of Washington's great-grandson-in-law.
The statue is being moved to a history museum, which is frankly a far more suitable location for the man famous as leader of the slave-owning armies in the War Between the States. It'd be nice to say that Lee's statue was the last Civil War remnant in the Capitol. However, Statuary Hall still includes monuments to Confederate Colonel Zebulon Vance (sponsored by North Carolina), Lieutenant General Wade Hampton (South Carolina), General Joseph Wheeler (Alabama), Vice President Alexander Stephens (Georgia), and Jefferson Davis (Mississippi). Maybe you can see a theme there.
Prior to this year, I believed we should preserve all works of art, even those that could serve as political propaganda for causes of hatred. While I never thought such pieces belonged in the same building as the working seat of government, the current political climate has me thinking that maybe museums are also too public. There are very clearly too many in this country willing to use the imagery of the past for their own political purposes without regard to the damage they inflict on others. That's just plain wrong.
The ancient Olmecs, like us, used to make giant statues of their leaders. Then, when the leaders fell from power, the statues were disfigured and buried so that the people could move on without being encumbered by old grudges and failed ideologies. I'm increasingly of the opinion that might not be such a bad idea.
Sunday 14 June 2020
I'm an artist with an affinity for history who grew up in the shadow of Stone Mountain, so it should be no surprise that I have a special soft spot for public portraiture sculpture. As you can imagine, I have very mixed feelings about 2020's approach to statues of the past.
Jefferson Davis should be no one's hero. I've been to Richmond, Virginia, and I've seen their monument to a man who defined his political career by trying to force the enslavement of an entire race of men. The monument is a disgusting tribute to the traitorous Lost Cause, and it should have been removed from the public space long before now. Should it be destroyed? It will always have propaganda value for the wrong kind of people; perhaps the only appropriate solution is to melt it down so that it cannot become a subversive icon, the same way there are no longer statues in the wild of Stalin or Saddam Hussein. I have a nostalgic emotional connection to the carving on Stone Mountain, but I rationally accept the world may be a better place without it.
But let's not get carried away. There is a difference between statues dedicated to perpetrators of genocide and hatred and statues of complicated political leaders whose actions have contributed directly to our current freedoms. Without Winston Churchill, whose statue is currently under assault in London because the man had unconscionable views about Indians, it's very likely that the only statues in Britain would be of Adolf Hitler, who wasn't exactly enlightened about race relations himself.
In the past, I've laughed off reactionary arguments that if we allow people to tear Robert E. Lee off his bronze horse, hammers would next come down on monuments to George Washington. Maybe that's not as crazy as I thought. America in 2020 wouldn't exist if Washington hadn't been the man he was in 1776, but he did own slaves in his day and that seems to be criteria enough in the current climate to have him blasted off Mount Rushmore. Washington was by no means a perfect person, but should perfection be the standard for which statue is allowed to stand and which isn't? I can't think of too many idolized men who can clear that bar. Maybe just Christ of the Ozarks, the Lincoln Memorial, and this guy:
So begone with your racist Alexander H. Stephens (no relation) and greedy Christopher Columbus statues if you must, but let's reconsider what modern life might be like without slave-loving Thomas Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase or colonialist Teddy Roosevelt's trust-busting and national park conservationism before we add them to the scrapheap. We could always use the reminder that not all great men who built our civilization were good.
Friday 8 July 2016
Okay, now that I'm rested, let's continue the vacation!
Day 4 (June 30): National Portrait Gallery
- National Portrait Gallery
- Smithsonian American Art Museum
- National Gallery Sculpture Garden
I loved the portrait and American art museums. Loved 'em. I could have spent the whole week in there.
America's Sweetheart, Myrna Loy
Day 5 (July 1): Newseum
- United States Capitol
- Library of Congress
- Supreme Court
The Newseum is the only museum we paid admission fee for. It was worth it. I must not have been the only person to think so; it was pretty crowded. The one exhibit that was totally empty was the section investigating journalistic ethics. I wish that was a joke.
Library of Congress Great Hall
Day 6 (July 2): Back to Virginia
- Arlington National Cemetery
- Steven F Udvar-Hazy Center
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
- Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
- Thomas Jefferson Memorial
- George Mason Memorial
- National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial
- Air Force Memorial
- US Marine Corps Memorial
Udvar-Hazy is the satellite campus (ha, ha) of the Air and Space Museum located 30 minutes away from DC in Dulles, Virginia. Like all Smithsonian museums, admission is free. Parking will set you back $15. This museum is home to the Enola Gay and the Space Shuttle Discovery. It also has a Concorde and some foreign military aircraft, but otherwise, I didn't find it as impressive as the Warner Robins Museum of Aviation. At least in Warner Robbins, parking is free.
Remember the Maine
Day 7 (July 3): Lexington, VA
- Lee Chapel & Museum
- Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery
Lexington is home to Washington and Lee University and Virginia Military Academy. No surprise it also has the final resting place of General Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Brian was very excited to stop here because it meant we'd completed our pilgrimage to the graves of all three men on Stone Mountain. (Lee and Jackson's horses, Traveller and Little Sorrel, respectively, are also on Stone Mountain, and both buried in Lexington as well.) Mission accomplished.
We returned home in the wee hours of July 4, and that was all right with me. I enjoyed the trip, but there's no place like home.
Wednesday 6 July 2016
Brian said, "Let's go to Washington DC," and I said, "Sure." That means its time for vacation photos! Yay!
Day 1 (June 27): Richmond, Virginia.
- Stonewall Jackson Statue
- Jefferson Davis Monument
- Robert E. Lee Memorial
- Hollywood Cemetery
- Historic Tredegar
- American Civil War Museum
- Virginia State Capitol
Richmond was the capital of the Confederate States of America, and it has a bit of a split personality. On one hand, they worship George Mason and Thomas Jefferson and their Declarations of rights. On the other hand, they've got serious monuments to General Lee and Jefferson Davis. Highlights in Richmond include the capitol building (designed by Jefferson) and Hollywood Cemetery (final resting place of Generals George Picket and J.E.B. Stuart, Presidents James Monroe and John Tyler, and, or course, Jefferson Davis).
Day 2 (June 28): South side of the Washington Mall.
- Smithsonian Castle
- Smithsonian Sackler Gallery
- Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
- Hirshhorn Museum
This happened to be the week the Air and Space Museum celebrated its 40th anniversary. The years are beginning to show. To their credit, they are making an effort at updating their exhibits, including a newly refurbished USS Enterprise model (which I must admit I found way, way cooler than the Apollo 11 control module and the Wright Flyer).
Day 3 (June 29): North and west side of the Washington Mall.
- National Archives
- National Gallery of Art
- Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
- Smithsonian National Museum of American History
- National WWII Memorial
- 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence monument
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial
- Lincoln Memorial
What a disappointment the American History museum was. I remember loving it as a child, but it seems like most of what they have on display now was purchased from flea markets. I might as well have walked through my aunt's attic. On the other hand, the National Archives was even more awesome than I remember from 25 years ago. Its exhibits are truly historical and awe-inspiring.
That's a lot of sightseeing. My feet are tired. This tour will resume the day after tomorrow. Don't be late.
Wednesday 3 June 2015
Vacation Day 4: Charleston and Beaufort, SC
By day 4, Brian and I had visited almost everything we knew we wanted to see in Charleston, so we were looking for things a little off the more beaten paths. We decided to start the day by paying a visit to the only thing in Charleston that had lived through the American Revolution.
They estimate at the Angel Oak may be 400 years old. It looks it.
The thing that I wanted to do next was visit Magnolia Cemetery. Newnan's Oak Hill Cemetery is older, but Magnolia is much, much larger and, though I hate to say it, it's also much, much prettier. (What's with naming cemeteries after trees, anyway?)
Magnolia is adjacent to a complex of cemeteries, including St. Lawrence and the Lutheran's Bethany Cemetery filled with tombstones inscribed in German. The area is full of many stunning tributes to the dead.
Naturally, being a cemetery in Charleston, SC, it is chock full of monuments to dead Confederates. The men who died testing and running the world's first submarine to sink a ship, the H.L. Hunley, are all buried here (the ill-fated ship killed more Confederates than Yankees), as are many other C.S.A. officers, soldiers, and officials. There's even a monument to all the Germans who fought for the South.
As you can see, there are many spectacular monuments here, I couldn't stop snapping pictures. I took nearly 200. (Thank you digital camera technology!) Brian gave up trying to follow me and sat in his car playing with his smart phone. I tell you, kids today! Who'd rather look at digital pixels than fine statuary like these?
In a cemetery this size, the statuary is only part of the pleasure. There are a nearly endless variety of entertaining monuments. For example, C.S.A. Captain John C. Mitchell, who died during the Yankee siege of Fort Sumter in 1864, has his last words: "I willingly give my life for South Carolina. Oh! That I could have died for Ireland!" The tombstone for Corporal Allan Jackson explains that he survived being shot at the Battle of Fredericksburg only to die of Typhoid Fever in Richmond. And don't forget such great names as Harry Brotherhood and Dr. B.A. Muckenfuss. But my favorite tombstone of all:
After Brian finally dragged me from the cemeteries, we headed into downtown Charleston to visit the Charleston City Hall. Originally built as the Charleston branch of the Bank of the United States, it now houses the mayor's office and an absolutely stunning council chamber containing several original commissions of famous southerners like George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and John C. Calhoun. (Flash photography was prohibited, but I'm sure no pictures could do it justice.)
Looking for one more thing to see before turning in for the night, we drove an hour to Beaufort, SC. We got there just as the sun was setting, and barely had enough time to photograph the Hunting Island Lighthouse before they closed the park gates.
Given how little light there was, I think this picture came out really well.
One more day to document. More to come.
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