Funny how Trump’s Dislike for 'Losers' Doesn't Extend to Confederate GeneralsRoundup
tags: Confederacy, Donald Trump
Max Boot, a Post columnist, is the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a global affairs analyst for CNN. He is the author of The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam, a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in biography.
We are suffering from “monumental” confusion about historical statues, place names and symbols. Some on the right, including President Trump, insist that we continue to honor prominent Confederates. Some on the left — mercifully not in the mainstream — are attacking statues of American icons such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Ulysses S. Grant. Both sides insist it’s all or nothing: The far right says we shouldn’t rename anything because then we will rename everything. The far left is just fine with renaming everything. I reject the extremes of both sides and so, I suspect, do most Americans.
We need to draw some fine distinctions here. Study the specifics of each individual to decide whether he or she is still worth honoring. The rule of thumb should be that those who contributed a great deal to the development of our country deserve to be recognized, however flawed they were as human beings.
Confederate leaders, by contrast, aren’t a close call at all. They were traitors who fought to preserve slavery. Whatever personal virtues they might have had are inconsequential compared with the evil that they did. Yes, Robert E. Lee was a brave man and a skilled general, but so was Erwin Rommel. Yet there are no statues of the World War II German general scattered around America — nor are U.S. Army bases named after him. Just as we should stop honoring Lee, so, too, should honors be denied to markedly inferior Confederate commanders such as Braxton Bragg and Henry Benning. There is no excuse for naming U.S. Army bases after these losers — to adopt one of Trump’s favorite insults.
Yet this is where Trump and much of the Republican Party have chosen to draw a line in the sand. In Tulsa, Trump complained that “the unhinged left-wing mob is trying to vandalize our history, desecrate our monuments, our beautiful monuments.” “Our” history? “Our” monuments? Trump was born in New York, not New Orleans. New York fought for the Union.
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