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Monumental Debates 

Over the last week, we covered the heck out of the removal of a Confederate monument in Durham and the events that followed, and our readers had plenty to say about it.

First up, Edwin M. Yoder thinks we should study our history books more: "I couldn't help noticing the invitation on your cover of August 17 to 'tear down' Confederate monuments. I assume that you are not intentionally advocating felonious acts of vigilantism.

"I wish the advocates of the cause you support were better versed in N.C. history, and American history generally. If so, they would be aware that Reconstructionist sentiment largely prevailed, even in the South, through the overthrow of the Fusionist regimes in the mid- and late 1890s. Albion Tourgee's novel A Fool's Errand is a readable primer. Tourgee, a veteran of the Union army, worked as a judge and constitution writer in Greensboro; and Edmund Wilson's explication of his novel in Patriot Gore provides an enlightening supplement on the post-Civil War situation, for both good and evil. It was not until the turn of the twentieth century that neo-Confederate sentiment could or would have flourished—or, with it, memorial statuary. For that reason, among others, it is beside the point to say that the monuments were of late vintage. It is an irrelevant truism.

"The motives of those who placed them, apart from outbursts of oratory, are inscrutable and various. It could only have embarrassed many UNC alumni, students, and friends, including Civil War veterans, that the unveiling of 'Silent Sam' in 1913 was accompanied by Julian Carr's brutal and vulgar remarks. In any case, they offer no useful commentary on the merits of the monument itself, such as they may be; and as to those, views varied then and vary now. A monument speaks for itself, and motives are impenetrably subjective. I myself dislike the gratuitous suggestion that a monument dedicated to the war dead has nothing really to do with them.

"Everyone familiar with the long, tragic history of race in America is aware that the first quarter or so of the twentieth century was probably the bottom-most for racist sentiment in our history, not forgetting the era of slavery itself. A virulent rebirth of the KKK in the 1920s, largely in Midwestern states, radically different from its original and featuring anti-Semitic views, was symptomatic; it seems now to be reflected among the violent rabble who created the disturbance in peaceful Charlottesville."

Commenter Jaddy Baddy seems to have a problem with Yankees: "To this day, that the South dare stand between the YSA [editor's note: Yankee States of America, maybe?] and their dreams of world conquest, yet sticks in the Yankee's craw. ISIS brooks no opposition. The Yankee brooks no opposition. You are the company that you keep. That you live in fear of statues, that you are frightened by an idea, exposes how truly fragile and weak your Union truly is."

Kate Sterling argues that civil disobedience is necessary. "I support the removal of the statues 100 percent," she says. "I support civil disobedience and thank those who are willing to take the risk of arrest or worse. The removal of these statues is long overdue, and given the law made by the legislature, there is no other quick and effective recourse."

On the other hand, commenter Bluetrain believes that, while the statues should come down, they should come down legally: "I want all those statues down or relocated like yesterday. But there is a right way to do it and a wrong way. This is the wrong way. Those who play with anarchy and mob rule do so at their own peril. Remember at one point those mobs were pointed in the other direction. This kind of behavior was not right then, nor is it now just because some think the ends justifies the means. I think the will is there to get rid of these things. Let's do it the right way and not bring ourselves down to their level."

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