There is again a war between the United States and the Confederation. There is already talk of a statue war. General Robert E. Lee was taken from his shelf after a demonstration by neonazi’s in which a left protester died. General Lee (1807-1870) was the commander of the southern American states that had formed the Confederation. On July 3, 1863 Lee suffered a major defeat at Gettysburg. And now his statue is gone.
Europe had its own political, religious, but also economic reasons. Jonathan Israel investigated that in his masterpiece The Republic 1477-1806. The statue war was, among other things, the result of decades of indoctrination of the population by Erasmian humanists and crypto protestors in schools, rederial chambers and taves of the Low Countries.
Ultimately, Israel makes a major conclusion about the European statue war: “Never before had a society become so alienated from its own religious culture. (…) The statue war was no more and no less than an attack on the church. “Let’s apply these findings to the events in America.
Is America alienated from its own foundations?
This is not a religion. It’s a purely political struggle. So we have to ask ourselves whether America is alienated from its own foundations. The answer to that is ambiguous: yes and no.
Yes, America is threatening to get alienated from its historical foundation. Because at the end of the American Civil War (1861-1865), the victor chose the path of reconciliation: no day of rest, no mass prosecution and no further legal and social disqualifications. In the United States of America the emphasis would be on the union of all states. In constitutional terms, this meant that the United States had won the rebel states. In fact, America later adopted the exact same attitude towards Germany: the end of the war was a reconciliation with Germans.
In the spirit of reconciliation, after the Civil War, no longer talked about losers or winners. The rebel states now belonged to the same unity. The Civil War was considered a national tragedy. It should never have happened. Exactly in this atmosphere, the states and local authorities should honor their own heroes. This attitude reinforced the quest for reconciliation and unity. Thus, these statues were formed. The tragedy was completed with a tribute to the losers. No one had to warn the losers.
Slavery and the principle of equality
That was the answer yes, but there is also another answer possible. No, America is not alienated from its foundation. The civil war was not just about the power of federal states. It was mainly about slavery and the principle of equality. The Confederation states represented the slave holders. They therefore fought for the preservation of slavery. And that was contrary to the United States Declaration of Independence, the document that America invented:
‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.’
The principle of equality is already read in the first sentence of this passage. The losers were in war with the letter and spirit of the Declaration of Independence. According to this answer, the removal of the statues is by no means a sign of alienation. The honor of the army of slave holders is a sign of alienation.
The domain of wisdom and reasonableness
Between these two historical answers lies the domain of wisdom and reasonableness. Removing the statues as it does now reverses the historical moment of reconciliation. In fact, such a decision must only be taken democratically only after extensive consultation and debate. The US states know the referendum phenomenon. Any state (or even city) can write a referendum on the fate of the statues. But there is also another possibility: some other statues or a museum about slavery in these states.
Radicalism now dominates the conflict over the statues. This is partly because the media and the reasonable people leave the discussion to the radicals. There is clearly no room for a calm and deliberate debate.
My verdict states that the removal of statues without democratic deliberation is an erroneous decision. It’s also a dangerous mistake. Not radicalism but shared reasonability must prevail in public space.
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