This article (There Goes Robert E. Lee) regarding Lee and the changing views of him over the past two centuries makes quite a few good points. And not just about Lee, but also about other people, whom would once have been described as <i>Great Men</i> but would most likely be called <i>old white racists</i> by the Progressives. People like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Winston Churchill.
Much of it comes down to the modern issue of looking at everything through the lens of recent cultural understandings, rather than looking at these men and the events they participated in within the context of their times. I fear that when future historians look back on the late 20th and early 21st century America they will judge us quite harshly for our willful misunderstandings of historical events and the men around them. I cannot blame them if they do.
When it comes to the American Civil War many detractors of the Confederate States and the men enlisted in the Army steadfastly refuse to acknowledge any reasons for the war other than slavery, and vociferously point to the various states official declarations of secession regarding the issue of slavery. What they fail to acknowledge is that the common man on the street (or rather in the field) held many of the same views on minorities, whether Black, Indian, etc. whether they were in the Confederate States or the Union States. While the views of northerners were much more weighted to abolition, their views of negroes in general were not praiseworthy. The government doesn’t always hold the same view of things as the people it’s supposed to be representing.
There are many letters from the time by the various soldiers involved in the war, from both sides, that are available to peruse online. The Confederate soldier in the field was less interested in keeping the institution of slavery than he was fighting for his family and home to be safe from the depredations of Union soldiers, or the idea laid out in the US Constitution that the States had the right to decide how they should act and if they wanted to remain in the Union.
The Civil War changed much of how this country was governed. After the war the US Federal Government started expanding its power beyond what was in the US Constitution and the subsequent Amendments to that time. And that expansion has continually increased, while the idea of States Rights has been pushed back and in many areas labeled as racist and backwards. The government we have today is not like the republic that our founding fathers envisioned for us during their time.
No document is perfect, and the US Constitution is not exempt. There were compromises that were necessary to keep the new nation held together so it could withstand pressures from the outside world. Some of those compromises were brutal and are unconscionable today. But it was better than anything that came before, and also laid out the groundwork for necessary changes to be made as the world changed. Unfortunately it seems that many people are more than willing to through the baby out with the bathwater. Instead of using the legal methods of changing the things they see as wrong in our country, they’ve taken to viewing everything out of context and decide to unilaterally destroy what they view as wrong without thinking through how things have changed in the years since the events transpired. The Progressives appear to be doing this willfully, which is why I have such a problem with their activities. And in doing so, they are going to make our children and grandchildren ignorant of the history of great events and the men that struggled through them to make this nation as great as it is.
No country is perfect. Some do some things well and others not so well. The United States of America is a country based on a concept, rather than a nation based on piece of land. We have struggled to live up to the concepts espoused in the Declaration of Independence and in the US Constitution, but striving to be better while being <i>good enough</i> should not be discouraged. Throwing out <i>good enough</i> because it’s not already perfect will only bring more pain and suffering to everyone. Willful ignorance and obfuscation of the past is not the path that leads to righteousness nor improvement. Those things lend themselves to tyrants and totalitarian government regimes, the very things that are anathema to the concept of America.