While we’re all waiting on SCOTUS to gay marry all of us to various inanimate objects, here’s David Brooks pretzelicious defense of General Robert E. Lee, who yeah owned a bunch of slaves but you guys, it made him sad.
Like Lincoln he did not believe African-Americans were yet capable of equality. Unlike Lincoln he accepted the bondage of other human beings with bland complaisance. His wife inherited 196 slaves from her father. Her father’s will (somewhat impractically) said they were to be freed, but Lee didn’t free them.
Lee didn’t enjoy owning slaves, but he was considered a hard taskmaster and he did sell some, breaking up families. Moreover, he supported the institution of slavery as a pillar of Confederate life. He defended the right of Southerners to take their slaves to the Western territories. He fundamentally believed the existence of slavery was, at least for a time, God’s will.
Every generation has a duty to root out the stubborn weed of prejudice from the culture. We do that, in part, through expressions of admiration and disdain. Given our history, it seems right to aggressively go the extra mile to show that prejudice is simply unacceptable, no matter how fine a person might otherwise be.
My own view is that we should preserve most Confederate memorials out of respect for the common soldiers. We should keep Lee’s name on institutions that reflect postwar service, like Washington and Lee University, where he was president. But we should remove Lee’s name from most schools, roads and other institutions, where the name could be seen as acceptance of what he did and stood for during the war.
This is not about rewriting history. It’s about shaping the culture going forward.
So yes, he was a terrible awful traitor and fought to preserve slavery and stuff but he was a family man, so that’s probably okay. There, I’m as solomonic as Bobo the wonder invertebrate here. Robert E. Lee is just an historic version of Raymond “Red” Reddington fro The Blacklist, right?
I mean as far as Bobo columns go, this one is bordering on the coherent. But why in Jeebus’s name would you want to split hairs over this guy in particular as your “both sides did it” deep thought on the Civil War?
Somebody’s been watching Ken Burns to help his insomnia.