The statue on the southwest corner of the Washington County Courthouse property is once again in the news.
The Board of Supervisors voted some time ago to remove from the property the statue commemorating Confederate soldiers, but have been in a quandary about how to handle it.
There’s a statute in the state of Mississippi which says statues on public property can’t simply be disposed. If taken down, the statue has to be kept in the county’s possession.
It’s an absurd statute and one written to stem a foreseen tide of removal of statues commemorating the Civil War.
The board is planning to challenge the statute, and they should.
Change should and can come even to dear old Mississippi, as my character Lucien Wilbanks says in the upcoming performance of A Time to Kill.
But change and statue removal come at a cost.
Part of the cost is actual money, but the other part is a costly reexamination of positions many of us once held as undeniable fact.
This is not unique to Mississippi, and not, even, to the South.
Once, a friend from Wisconsin began speaking about the Civil War and said, “It was all about state’s rights and not slavery.”
He’d learned that in his midwestern high school. I learned that in my Alabama history class in fourth grade.
He didn’t know Mississippi, in its own secession declaration of Jan. 9, 1861, said the following: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of the commerce of the earth… A blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”
That doesn’t sound like a state’s rights argument to me. In fact, the only state’s rights the southern states were concerned with were those in other states objecting to slavery.
A New York born and raised friend once proclaimed the seceding Southerners to be the last great American patriots.
I’m not even sure how it’s possible to both rebel against and be a patriot of the same thing.
But I thought this same thing for many years of my life.
A very dear sweet lady recently told me the slaves in the houses were so well treated and nobody has been complaining about that statue until now.
We all know slaves are slaves no matter how they are dressed and complaints about statues and flags weren’t heard because they weren’t allowed to be expressed.
But I was also taught these things by adults with college degrees and textbooks to back them up.
The cost of examination of the beliefs that are so ingrained in your mind and in the fabric of the society in which you dwell is high.
When you find out the things your parents told you and your teachers made you learn were just flat wrong, it hurts.
That we are still reeling from the fallout of a war that ended 156 years ago shows just how much a part of the American story the Civil War is.
And learning that story is exceedingly important.
It’s why we travelled a few months ago to the battlefield in Vicksburg to drive around in cold weather and listen to a recounting of the fighting there.
It’s why I buy books called the The Confederate and Neo-Confederate reader.
The story of the Civil War, and the results of it, is the story of America.
But statues don’t tell stories and aren’t history.
Statues are meant to do one thing, glorify the person or thing they represent.
In this case, the statue is glorifying a group of people who were bent on keeping another group subjugated and fought a war to do so.
All of my ancestors alive at the time were on the wrong side of that fight.
I’m not ashamed of it, but I also don’t want a statue glorifying it.
Jon Alverson is proud to be the publisher and editor of the Delta Democrat-Times, write to him at email@example.com or call him at 662-335-1155.