Dear Alert Reader,
It was wholly a pleasure to get your email informing me that a Carol Kerr, who is identified as a spokesperson for the Army War College, says the school may remove the portraits of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson that now adorn a third-floor hallway.
Your astonishment is all too understandable; erasing history to appease today's politically correct attitudes is an exercise better left to totalitarian societies. They have so much more practice at it. No edition of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, for example, was complete until all traces of the old Bolsheviks who'd been purged by the Party had been removed. And so they were airbrushed out of official history.
George Orwell caught the spirit of the thing by having poor Winston Smith in "1984" work for the Ministry of Truth, where his days were spent expurgating the truth from official records.
Thank you for your suggestion that I write a well-deserved response to that kind of historical revisionism, which is as un-American as it is untruthful. Allow me to beg off for now, and hope that the blue and gray will remain united in the U.S. Army without anyone's having to point out what a folly it would be to set us warring against each other again. In the style of General Lee himself after The War, a stoic silence might be best. For now.
Let's wait and see what the pickets report after they've reconnoitered these politically correct lines before dashing off to battle. Some problems solve themselves, given a little patience and perspective, and enough time for cooler heads to prevail.
To quote a letter that the General, eloquent as ever, wrote to a former Confederate soldier once hostilities were concluded and the nation was one again: "This war, being at an end, the Southern States having laid down their arms, and the questions at issue between them and the Northern States having been decided, I believe it to be the duty of everyone to unite in the restoration of the country and the reestablishment of peace and harmony."
In that spirit, let us hold our rhetorical fire till this fleeting embarrassment fades from the news, and even the most impassioned among us remember that we're all Americans now.
It is my great privilege to spend one night a year poring over various biographies of the general in order to put together our annual Lee page here at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. To dwell on his life even once a year leaves one with a renewed sense of peace, the way classical tragedy elevates and reconciles. This annual exercise is also a reminder that there was once such a thing as a gentleman -- and honor.
E Pluribus Unum,
Your Fellow American