In the aftermath of violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, progressive activists nationwide have demanded, and in some cases illegally carried out, the tearing down and removal of statues and monuments to Confederate leaders and soldiers on public space. Now Black Lives Matter activists have gone even further — going so far as to call for a ban on all Confederate imagery — even in private possession.
Inspired by Germany’s post-war laws banning any and all Nazi imagery, Black Lives Matter activists on Twitter called for a similar ban on Confederate imagery or memorabilia.
“After WWII, Germany outlawed the Nazis, their symbols, salutes & their flags. All confederate flags & statue, & groups should be illegal,” tweeted the Black Lives Matter Chicago Twitter account, @BLMChi.
“The fact that the Confederate flag & statues permeate the south is evidence that white supremacy was never overthrown in the United States,” the @BLMChi account tweeted three minutes later.
Outlawing all Confederate flags, symbols, statues, and groups would not only be indescribably impractical — taking into account the existence of battlefield monuments, graves, Civil War re-enactors, every single souvenir shop within a 10-mile radius of Gettysburg, historical computer games, and Lynyrd Skynyrd albums — it would also be illegal.
“Even the most liberal Supreme Court justice knows that the remedy to hateful or offensive speech is opposing speech,” Eddie Zipperer, an assistant professor of political science at Georgia Military College, told LifeZette. “This would be a blatant violation of the First Amendment.”
“Leftists always haul out the argument that you can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater, so free speech has limits,” he said. “But that argument is nonsensical. Historically, the Supreme Court goes to any length to protect political speech — even wildly unpopular speech.”
Zipperer provided as an example the decision in the 2011 case Snyder v. Phelps, in which the court ruled 8-1 to “protect the absolutely horrible, hateful speech of the Westboro Baptist Church during a protest of a dead soldier’s funeral.”
“That case was decided by all the same justices we have now, except Scalia was on the court instead of Gorsuch,” he noted. “The Supreme Court has allowed almost no limitation on political speech, and there’s no reason to think that will change.”
Similar rhetoric pointing a finger of wrong at any and all Confederate memorabilia came from at least one lawmaker.
“Confederate memorabilia have no place in this country and especially not in the United States Capitol,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) in a statement to The Hill.
The entire Congressional Black Caucus called on Wednesday for the removal of all Confederate-related statues in the nation’s Capitol.
“The Congressional Black Caucus and the Black Lives Matter movement ignore the reality that the central figures in Confederacy, from Robert E. Lee to Jefferson Davis, were also central figures in American political life,” said Dr. Lee Cheek, Dean of Social Sciences at East Georgia State College and a Senior Fellow of the Alexander Hamilton Institute in New York.
“Most of the more important figures were the children of heroes or veterans of the American Revolution,” Cheek continued. “For example, CSA Brig. Gen. and Secretary of War George W. Randolph was the grandson of Thomas Jefferson. Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor, CSA, was the son of General and President Zachary Taylor and the grandson of a Revolutionary War officer.”
“As the great American historian Dr. Clyde Wilson has noted, there are hundreds and hundreds of these historical connections; in other words, this is an American story as well as a Civil War story that should be shared with the rising generation in its fullness,” he said.
“The greatest threat to Congressional Black Caucus’ new ‘cultural revolution,’ inspired by an illiberal and anti-democratic worldview, is an environment in which free and uninhibited discussion and disagreement can take place,” Cheek continued.
“In fact, diversity of thought is the opposite of their desires, but is at the heart of a free society. The proponents of historical cleansing are on the ascendency, and the authentic study of the American South is the victim,” he said.
The particular assault on statues of Gen. Robert E. Lee showcases the degree to which emotion has overridden important historical context.
Robert E. Lee, that alleged symbol of white supremacy and racism, not only personally opposed overt displays of Confederate symbolism after the war but also believed that the entire war — the Confederate defeat and the personal loss of his Arlington property and fortune — was worth it to see slavery ended.
“I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished,” said Lee in 1870. “I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the South. So fully am I satisfied of this, as regards Virginia especially, that I would cheerfully have lost all I have lost by the war, and have suffered all I have suffered, to have this object attained.”
(photo credit, homepage image: Dschwen, Wikimedia; photo credit, article image: Donald Lee Pardue, Flickr)