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Discussing the vast array of social issues any number of which affect society as a whole in one way or another, from economic burdens, to legal rights, to discrimination. We aim to shed some light on some of the more hot button societal issues we face today.

The Great Monument Debate

Robert E Lee

In a recent interview with Fox News White House Chief of Staff John Kelly commented on the Civil War and attributed the cause of the war to a "lack of ability to compromise."  Some expressed surprise and condemned the fact that Kelly did not mention slavery as the root cause of the conflict.  The comments have reignited the debate over the many Confederate monuments found throughout the southern United States.

The Great Monuments Debate stems from the events of the Civil War when 11 Southern States initially seceded from the United States after Republican Presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln won the general election becoming President of the United States. President Lincoln condoned the future expansion of slavery to the West and may have wanted to end the institution altogether. The confederacy was born from 11 States and eventually enveloping four more States with Virginia as its most Northern border. The debate today surrounds the since erected monuments commemorating soldiers, generals, battles and leaders from the Confederate side and their roles in the Civil War whom Americans against these monuments say only commemorates slavery, and provides a platform for hate and racism in the South and across the country.

Do Confederate Monuments deserve to remain erected on public land?

The Great Monuments Debate from the Left

The recent debates and controversy surrounding Civil War statues and monuments in the Southern United States have made one thing abundantly clear: the symbolic meaning of these monuments differs greatly depending on one's ethnic background and political persuasion.

For many liberals and African-Americans the monuments represent a glorification of the antebellum south and the fight to preserve slavery which has no place in the modern United States. For those on the political right, the statues commemorate people who, despite fighting on the side which sought to uphold slavery, nonetheless fought with courage and honour. To those on the right the suggestion that the monuments be removed represents an attack on history, culture, and the ability of white people in the South to be proud of their past. Then, of course, there are those in the middle who are so often over-looked by the media in polarizing debates such as this one. These people wonder if there might be some middle ground whereby we can remember this contentious period and the associated historical figures without appearing to celebrate slavery and racism.

When considering how to proceed with such a polarizing issue we should remember that the situation is not without precedent. In the aftermath of WWII in Germany most reminders of the Nazi regime were removed or destroyed although it became evident over time that not all traces could be removed. Even today Nazi-era buildings remain, many with large information boards (not small plaques) prominently displayed explaining the history of the building. Other sites associated with Nazi Germany have been converted into, or replaced with, museums. In Budapest, statues from Hungary's Soviet Era have been moved to Memento Park - a sort of open-air museum where the statues are given a proper historical context.

Obviously, no two histories are alike; Robert E. Lee was no Adolf Hitler by any stretch of the imagination. Nonetheless, the experience in other countries shows both that the status quo is not an option, and that solutions can be found. If these Confederate monuments are to remain displayed, in any venue, then it will have to be done in a way that acknowledges the historical wrong of slavery. Unfortunately, John Kelly's comments earlier this week once again displays that the current U.S. administration is more interested in glossing over or rewriting history than in properly confronting it. The Germans, as they often do, have a unique word for the problem facing Americans -Vergangenheitsbewaltigung. In German it means "the enduring confrontation with the past." Perhaps, the political right in America should familiarise themselves with this concept because no matter how hard they try to hide from the past, it will always come back to haunt us.

Lefty G

The Great Monuments Debate from the Right

Arguing that confederate monuments not be dismantled is not the same as supporting the confederate’s ideology of white supremacy and condoning the confederate rebellion which led to the Civil War. Further, after the collapse of the Confederacy those Americans rejoined the union and have been patriots ever since. These were brethren fighting brethren not brethren fighting foreign armies where in victory commemorating the enemy has no post-war sentimental value nor reconciliation purpose, although perhaps it should. Both Confederates and Unionists would trudge on in the aftermath to forge the country to how it is today. Both sides should not let some of this history, especially of the losing side, fade away. Notwithstanding the slavery-perpetuating purpose of the Confederacy, the creation, defense and administration of the Confederacy involved many acts of human courage, intelligence, loyalty, steadfastness and other generally-recognized human virtues. It is these virtues and not the perpetuation of slavery that are commemorated by the monuments in question.

During the acceleration of Christianization of the Eastern Roman Empire in the seventh and eighth centuries, Emperors had to deal with the debate over the destruction of Great Monuments of the Old Roman Gods. The old Roman Gods were seen as symbols of paganism and represented a Godless nation of sinners whose ideals and values no longer resonated with modern Christian Roman culture.  Emperors were conflicted with their great past and beginnings and what it meant to be a Roman, yet they also had to balance their past with what  protected Rome now, the Christian God as they knew it, which meant a lot during these tumultuous days as the rise of Islam nearly collapsed the Eastern Roman Empire.  

While the parallel is not perfect, the similarities with the Confederate Monument debate are clear. Do Americans turn their back on who they were, and how they came to be, by destroying these monuments, even if a some of them have a dark meaning to some people? In our article, the right argued that the Civil war birthed what would become modern American Patriotism draped in flags and song. Robert E. Lee resigned from the Union Army siding with the Confederacy after Virginia seceded. If he had not, perhaps he would have been a Union hero, his statutes adorning the countryside. Lee was well-respected by his adversaries and should be considered a “Great American Leader”. History has dubbed him one of the greatest generals of all time. Shouldn’t the civil war, arguably the second most important event in American history behind Independence, be commemorated in ways representing both Confederates and Unionists in some fashion?

Final thoughts. We should remember that when people take extreme measures to prevent things they fear most from happening, sometimes they only succeed in bringing them about. Is it not better to remember this struggle to help invigorate people to never forget the moral, constitutional and political crises of the time? The right believes so now, and as history will show, future Americans will believe so also.

Righty V


Do Confederate Monuments deserve to remain erected on public land?

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The Monuments Men, Great story!

NFL Anthem Protests

NFL Anthem Protests

The NFL anthem protests began in 2016 with the San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick sat, and later kneeled during the playing of the U.S. National anthem throughout the 2016 season. Kaepernick's stated goal was to draw attention to issues of racial inequality and police brutality. Over the course of the season other NFL players displayed different forms of protest during the anthem – locking arms, raising fists, sitting, or “taking a knee”.

In September 2017, speaking at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama President Trump urged NFL owners to fire players who knelt during the national anthem saying, “Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He's fired.'” Following those statements the anthem protests swept the NFL and President Trump has continued to call for the league to disallow the protests. The NFL owners will be meeting this week in New York and are set to discuss the issue.


Lefty G

Regardless of our personal feelings about NFL players kneeling or locking arms during the playing of the national anthem there can be no doubt about the fact that the players have a right to express themselves in this way. The idea of someone being fired for refusing to stand during the national anthem brings to mind some kind of totalitarian regime – not the United States of America in 2017. I don't know of any workplace that requires it's employees to stand for the playing of a national anthem and I don't see why the National Football League should be any different.

Certainly there is a tradition of players standing for the anthem before sporting events, but there is also a history of athletes refusing to stand for the anthem going back to the Civil Rights movement. NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabar stopped standing for the anthem in his senior year playing at UCLA. With a seeming rise in 'white nationalism' taking place in the United States alongside a growing awareness of issues surrounding racial inequality and police brutality (as displayed by the growth of the Black Lives Matter group) one can easily see why black athletes want to raise their voices at this moment in history.

Of course the situation has only been exacerbated by President Trump's vitriolic remarks (in much the same way that they have exacerbated nearly every contentious issue currently facing America). The number of players participating in the anthem protests was still relatively small before Trump's comments in Alabama caused the protests to explode in popularity. Trump's remarks, predictably, added fuel to the fire.

Keep in mind that Trump's comments urging players to be fired for demonstrating during the national anthem came only a month after he stated that some of the white nationalists demonstrating in Charlottesville in August were “very fine people.” So if you are a torch-wielding white guy marching through the streets at night chanting “Blood and Soil” you are quite possibly a very fine person but if you are a black NFL player kneeling during the national anthem you are a “son of a bitch” and you should be fired? Trump may not have intended to draw any comparison between the two statements but it seems that the hypocrisy wasn't lost on many of the NFL players.

And why is Trump so preoccupied with this issue anyway? He has tweeted dozens of times about the subject. One would think that the President has more important matters demanding his attention, what with the recent storms that have battered the country, NAFTA renegotiations underway, a nuclear-armed North Korea threatening war, and Las Vegas reeling from the largest mass shooting in American history.

But perhaps the mounting crises are the very reason for the completely off-point attacks on the NFL players. Perhaps Trump feels the need to distract the public, distract himself, or both. Regardless of Trump's motives for making this non-issue front and center in the national consciousness, it should be viewed as exactly that – a distraction.

Righty V

Interesting history surrounds the Anthem which, if interpreted and understood correctly, sheds light on the issues some on the Right, (and perhaps silently on the Left), may have with kneeling during the Anthem as a sign of protest against racism and Police Brutality.

Kneeling for the Anthem may not actually provide the same powerful platform for civil liberty reform as Black Lives Matters today or Civil Liberty Marches and riots did in the 1960’ and 1970’s.

The Anthem, popularized during the civil war, came to stand as a sign of Freedom and unification for the military in the Northern States of a fractured people under the assumption that the Southern views of the world were unjust and that America would be forged in the spirit of Freedom for all. Like an Olympic torch bearer, the essence of the Anthem and the Flag it is sung to, forged in blood and iron, harrowed through the ages, resonating with future generations and creating the backbone of modern day American Patriotism. Words like duty and honor cloaked themselves around the Anthem and the Flag combining them into one idea:  the idea of America, the free, and the brave. This idea resonated so strongly that the Anthem eventually became formalized in Congress in 1931 and gained further steam after World War Two and 9/11 as an American patriotic symbol.

So is it reasonable to then associate the formation of the popularity of the Anthem with civil liberty itself? Is it further reasonable to argue that standing for the Anthem (which became popular in the 1890’s in the military, and in sports during WWII) is a sign of respect for the fight for civil liberty itself? These are the points in case to which the Right and Trump hold their beliefs. Wait a second, I will rephrase, these are the reasons the Right probably hold to in some fashion sublimely or not;  not exactly sure if this is the coal Trump is using for his Twitter fire as of late.

So this is all well and good.  American patriotism summed up in one Anthem, popularized during the civil war, arguably the biggest civil liberty event in American history, while people of her land stand with heavy hearts and teary eyes gazing at the red, white and blue. But does this matter?

Currently, the NFL strongly encourages its players to be present with helmet in crutch for the Anthem. However the question becomes: is it contractually required? Per the game operations manual,(which is not available online), no its not, it's more of a suggestion.

So the big bad wolf of Patriotism is the foundation of anger on the right. While Trump’s comments are aggressive, they defiantly and furiously feed his hungry base with prime rib and have forced the NFL to consider making standing during the Anthem a  contractual requirement in meetings planned this week. Whether or not something like this could stand the test of a legal contract is another debate and I doubt it would!

The NFL and all other Sports Organizations have many rules which a player must follow or be ousted from the sport temporarily or permanently. What distinguishes one rule from another? The NFL has quite the dilemma. Be on the side of not supporting American Patriotism?  Or on the side of inequality and silencing freedom of expression? Good luck NFL! Your going to need it.

What do you think of NFL players silently protesting during the anthem?

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