As Americans, as a Nation, we stand unified in our belief that each and all have the right to express their opinions proudly and openly, especially when doing so opens heretofore obscured pathways to a deeper understanding of our collective humanity during broad discourses such as these; vigorously reassessing an ever progressing and changing identity.
As a Democracy, we ideally look toward and rely upon a majority representation of our majority personality. There are many compelling forces in this broad “heritage” argument. I hear confidence and resolve from folks holding nearly sacred the recognition of those (especially our ancestors) who “died for their beliefs”.
As a native Virginian (Fredericksburg, Northern Virginia and until recently Leesburg) I'm proud of our multi-faceted history--rife with admirable and remarkable personalities manifest in myriad trajectories, often times in contradictory fashion. That any may have died "standing for something" doesn't automatically meet my personal standards for veneration. History is rife and rancid with all sorts of agents displaying hideous conviction.
Leesburg has indeed and repeatedly been a bed of revolutionary passion. Loudoun County earned the colloquial status of “Breadbasket of the Revolution” during that war, for its formidable agricultural support of the Continental Army as it feverishly fought to extricate its citizens from the demeaning and crippling clutches of a far-away and tyrannical regime.
The colonies—united—won that war. We became an officially independent nation, the United States of America. For months, years, decades and centuries we progressed as a young nation navigating, negotiating a brighter, fairer and ever more promising future for each and all. Relative to other "great” nations of the globe, we today still remain a young one.
No one can accurately predict when one established era's characteristic practices, social mores and moral standards will seemingly—suddenly—tumult into another with its laws, practices and traditions slightly more effectively reasonable, rational, righteous, enlightened and otherwise evolved.
The "War Between the States” was a bloody and divisive conflagration, when certain States within our unified nation attempted secession from the majority collective thus allowing themselves to adhere only to their own codes and economic methods, one of which is now clearly recognized as a cruel, demoralized practice, that of keeping and utilizing human beings as livestock.
It is fact that many of our honored “forefathers” were slave owners, but during all that while an ever flowing enlightenment was by degrees reaching many enough shores to gradually become a mainstream. Those cultures—multiple generations of them—slowly gave way to change much as a frightened uprooted child slowly learns that a new home can be better, even while holding the memory of the old home near.
Of course, acceptance moves and grows by degrees as well. It requires dialogue both external and internal.
Recently, in the wake of "rulings" (we've been inoculated to steel ourselves as a reaction to that word) it’s irrefutable that this slow conversion is requiring this conversation, even within the considered climate of many a jarred sensibility. Perhaps we’ve evolved to a farther point where all of these opinions, reactions and detractions can be civil (writ large), constructive, non-violent (literally and literately), and made (and heard!) with patiently open minds and compassionately open hearts. We are compelled to examine ourselves as private and public entities, and do so privately and publicly.
The comedian Jerry Seinfeld recently stated (perhaps within another context, perhaps not) that "pain (like stubbing your toe on the edge of furniture in the dark) is knowledge rushing in to fill a gap in knowledge. The pain is a lot of information really quick." In that sense, intransigence is our enemy, both as an end result and as a practice fostering more unpleasantness along the stubborn way.
As a unified Nation, we won the Revolutionary War. Later, as the Confederacy begrudgingly struggled to deny this union, they lost the Civil War, a long and ugly conflict whose legacy, by virtue of its origins of regional solipsism and nationalistic self-loathing, is one of which, as an American, I’m not proud.
But we move on and we change…little by little. Whether they be flags or statues, we hold on to icons and emblems as commemoration of history. Some have become somewhat perverted vestiges of our times and culture, even while they gaze back on those that are past.
On the one hand, we feel strongly that the Confederate facet of our region’s identity should be recognized and taught. On the other, its arguably most salient historical mantle is slavery--universally deplored. Any nod to icons standing for this cause of the Confederacy risks being perceived as approval even celebration.
I personally find it rude to question and argue others' clear reasons for taking a valid and expressed offense. The offended sensibilities of our fellow Americans, and Leesburg/Loudoun citizens (especially those of African ancestry) should be of paramount importance and utmost consideration. Even so, many may hear protests against the location of statues and such to be but from a weak-kneed chorus of politically correct whiners.
I say let the cognitive dissonance flow like a robust and widely drinkable wine. In vino veritas.