Right now in Louisiana, and across the South, people are freaking out about Confederate monuments being removed from public parks. Even though Robert E. Lee never set foot in Louisiana during the war, and he would have hated monuments to the “Lost Cause,” our Republican lieutenant governor is pleading with Trump to stop the planned removals which include a statue of Lee in New Orleans.
Let that sink in for a moment, Republican politicians who have fought against Medicaid expansion and want creationism taught in schools are crying because local cities across the Bible Belt have decided to take down statues erected during the Jim Crow era.
Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser, who is obviously setting himself up to run for governor in 2019, is trying to shore up support with Confederate statue supporters and Trump fanatics.
“I implore you to utilize the powers bestowed upon the Office of the President in the Antiquities Act, passed by Congress in 1906, which granted you the authority to declare by public proclamation, historic and prehistoric structures and other objects of historic significance as national monuments,” Nungesser wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump.
Nungesser tried to make a connection with Trump’s recent speech in Nashville and the president’s adoration of Andrew Jackson. He claimed that Mayor Mitch Landrieu wanted proposals for how much it would cost to remove that statue from in front St. Louis Cathedral, adding, “Ultimately, he chose not act against the monument of General Jackson at this time but has made it clear that Jackson will be next,” Nungesser wrote. (WWLTV)
Louisiana is one of the poorest, sickest, and least-educated states in the country. It is also the only state in the Deep South that expanded Medicaid, much to the anger of Republicans. While the rest of the country has rebounded from the Bush recession, Louisiana is in deep financial trouble thanks to the collapse of their oil economy and massive handouts to corporations.
Opponents of removing the Confederate statues are claiming that people are trying to “erase history.” However, the history of New Orleans includes 15 years of federal occupation, and the Big Easy was one of the first major cities to fall to Union forces early in 1862.
After the war, racial hatred and resentment towards federal control ran high in Louisiana. In 1874, white supremacist groups fought the police and state militia, which were strangely enough led by the famous former Confederate general James Longstreet. You read that right, a former Confederate general led the state militia fighting the opponents of Reconstruction.
Once Reconstruction ended due to a compromise over the disputed 1876 election, the Jim Crow Era began, and one of the first things they did, along with denying blacks the right to vote, was erecting monuments to Confederate figures as a reminder white supremacy was back in the South.
Racists hold on to these monuments as part of their dream that the South will rise again. They voted for Trump because they believed he would bring prosperity and white supremacy back, even though his policies will plunge them even further into sickness and economic distress.
I’ve lived in the South all of my life, and I’m a Civil War buff who loves classic military weapons. I was born in a hospital named after a Confederate general, been to reenactments, and I’ve spent four decades witnessing the simmering white rage towards minorities and the federal government. The South isn’t going to rise again, the Confederate army surrendered at Appomattox, and even Robert E. Lee wanted to leave the past behind.
It’s time to take these statues and monuments, and move them to a museum where they belong. We liberals aren’t trying to erase history, we’re just trying to put the racist past of the South behind and move into the 21st century.