The cost of freedom

This morning, work crews removed the 12-ton statue of Robert E. Lee from its memorial site in RIchmond VA. The crowds were, mercifully, kept behind cordons at a distance from the pedestal and the heavy equipment. I watched the live stream version of this, from a local news outlet, and found the work itself to be unremarkable. The comments were…incredible.

Comments ranged from accusations of erasing history to proposed retaliation by taking down statues of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama. No commenter specifically attributed the Lee statue’s removal to African-American interests or Black Lives Matter, but the connection was clear. Many comments attacked those who supported the removal, and somehow concluded the other folks were sucking sitting home and collecting unemployment when they should be working. That was a stretch, but these folks were largely enraged, citing assaults to liberty and freedom and the decline of the nation because Robert E. Lee’s memorial was removed.

Watching the hateful comments scroll by, and hearing the on-site crowd reacting in like fashion, was somewhat distressing if I’d have taken it personally. But I wasn’t willing to do that. I’m NOT willing to do that, but I have to admit I just don’t get it. I’m not even sure that I want to get it, but feel as though I should try. Seeking to understand is not as simple as it sounds.

Understanding is a two-way street, by definition. If one side of the street is blocked, we aren’t going to get anywhere. And we have to get somewhere. We can’t stay here, fighting over ideology and trying to make impermanent things permanent Nobody alive today knew Robert E. Lee, but we have emotion tied to who we believe he was, and what we believe he did. That ultimately has little to do with him, and little to do with history, and everything to do with power.

Power, or the imbalance of it, is what gives us the unwanted feelings of being out of control of our lives. When we have power, we’re fine. When we don’t have it, we resist those who have it and we cannot rest. It’s innate; it’s who we are. That has less to do with skin color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class, or anything else that stratifies us. It has everything to do with common human nature.

I don’t know if I can make the choice to refuse personal reaction to generic insults and differences in opinion. It feels like justice matters enough to engage me on a personal level, but I have to be careful that I’m not just looking for a few steps up on the power continuum. I have to be honest about that – do I just want to be right? Do I have a valid stake in every dispute? Do I really believe there’s a moral injustice occurring, and do I have enough information to accurately determine that? Those are some of the considerations I need to make if I’m going to maintain my personal ethics and integrity. It might take a minute.

The best comment I saw on the endless stream of mostly hateful banter on the live stream earlier made me laugh. It said, “Lose the dude, keep the horse.” Sounds like good advice to me. I’m going to keep the horse and let it carry me beyond the memorial and beyond the misinformation and keep going forward.

It’s not the statue. It’s the feelings.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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