Washington and Lee University said Tuesday they are removing Confederate Battle Flags from Lee Chapel while the school continues to study its historical involvement with slavery.
A victory for some W&L students and others who want to put the Civil War behind us and move on?
W&L President Kenneth Ruscio also said in his statement that while the Battle Flag reproductions will disappear from the Chapel, the school will replace them with real flags from the American Civil War Museum in Richmond. The real flags will be in the Lee Chapel Museum, not on display in the main hall.
W&L will also continue to allow racists to use the Chapel to celebrate Lee-Jackson Day on the weekend before Martin Luther King Day.
A story about this decision in the Roanoke Times brought about 50 comments as of this morning, most of them decrying the decision, calling it a “disgrace” that dishonors “one of the greatest generals in American history.”
Lee was many things but one of the greatest generals in this country’s history? There are well-regarded historians who will disagree with such a sweeping endorsement. He was, after all, the general who lost the Civil War.
Such is the hysteria that still follows that despicable war more than 150 years after its sordid existence in American history.
Memo to the fanatics who still wave the Confederate flag and claim the war was not about preserving one of the most disgraceful parts of American history: The war is over. The South lost. Forget it and move on.
As a Southerner, I have never understood the region’s fascination with the Civil War. I also can’t understand the fear, bigotry and stupidity that led to it. I have this belief — unpopular in too many circles around here — that people of all races, ethnic backgrounds, sexual preference, religion belief (or non-belief) and philosophical persuasion should be treated with respect and allowed to co-exist among us in peace.
This, course, goes against the grain of racism, bigotry, homophobia and discrimination that still dominates too much of our society today. Too often, we hear homophobia preached as “the word of God” from pulpits along with pathetic attempts to explain away racism as “just part of past times.”
America should be better than that. The sad fact that it isn’t is a cause for concern and regret.
When I returned to Virginia in 1981 with my Illinois-born wife, she looked around at all the monuments to the Civil War and said: “My God, how many of these would you have if the South had actually won that war?”
Thankfully, the South did lose and America moved on.
Actually, only parts of America moved on.
Lynn Ellen McCutchen Thompson (no relation thankfully) of Roanoke summed up the feelings of too many area residents when she posted this comment in The Roanoke Times: “Sorry to hear W&L is giving in to a few students. Shame of you. Did you forget what Lee and the Confederacy stand for?”
No, Lynn, they didn’t what Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy stand for. Unfortunately, it appears you did.