One of the points that President Trump made during the press conference that has the media in flames was that the drive to remove Confederate statues and monuments could be a slippery slope and that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would be next, given their status as slave holders. The media reacted with more eye rolling that yelps of outrage. However, less than 24 hours, a Chicago pastor demanded that a statue of George Washington be removed from a park in that city’s predominately African American south side.

George Washington ‘no hero to the black community’

The offending statue is situated at a corner of Washington Park in Chicago. Bishop James Dukes, a pastor of Liberation Christian Center, is demanding that it be removed and that the park is renamed. The idea that Washington, as a slave holder, is no hero to the black community, his status as the father of our country notwithstanding. For good measure, nearby Jackson Park should be renamed for similar reasons.

The problem with expunging people from history who, though otherwise great had a singular flaw by standards of 21st Century sensibilities, is that no one would escape such treatment if the principle were equally applied. Franklin Roosevelt as a racist and an anti-Semite.

John F. Kennedy has Mad Men-era attitudes toward women. Martin Luther King, as much as a secular saint as anyone, committed adultery. All of these men were indisputably great and would not deserve to be cast into the outer darkness because like everyone they were imperfect.

Also, the spectacle of Bishop Dukes worrying about edifices of bronze when his neighborhood suffers from a plague of young black men shooting one another is, mildly speaking, unedifying.

Mayor Rahm Emmanuel could bow to his demands, and the emergency rooms of Chicago will still be filled to overflowing with murder victims.

What if we just draw the line for people who fought for the Confederacy?

The idea of removing monuments to those men who turned traitor to the United States (never mind that they were pardoned) and fought for slavery (though it can be argued that the Civil War hastened its demise) is a beguiling one.

Most of those monuments were erected in the latter part of the 19th Century as a way to assuage southern pride, the theory is that a divided nation needed to be healed by welcoming the former rebels as erring brothers whose courage, if not their cause, should be honored. It could be argued that reason is no longer operative in the 21st Century 150 years after Appomattox.

On the other hand, tearing down monuments that offend us seems to be too much like something that the Taliban or ISIS does, not Americans. History is often uncomfortable, but the proper response may be to confront it and understand it rather than expunging it. No less person with a lot of moral authority on this subject that Condoleezza Rice, urged that the monuments remain intact but instead be used as teaching tools. That response seems to be the most sensible one that has been expressed.