A Finely Crafted Opinion Piece By Randy Adcox – June 3, 2020
By now many of you have probably heard about the city council voting 6-1 yesterday to move our Confederate Monument. Last night, I watched the video of the yesterday’s proceedings and frankly, I have mixed feelings about what I saw. My first thought, like many of you, was extreme sadness and disappointment. And yes, anger. The fact that this vote was taken during a *budget* meeting, as opposed to a regular, “public” city council meeting, made it seem all the more perverse. In a time when we want our government to be MORE transparent, we have our own city government making these kinds of decisions in what essentially amounted to a “closed session” to the public. It just wreaks of a LACK of transparency and bad judgement. I’ve been told a “formal”, public vote will take place at Monday’s regular scheduled council meeting, but like a LOT of decisions made by this council in the past, it’s already a “done deal”. The public has no input or “say so” in the matter, because the council has already made the decision to move it.
Aside from the “cloak and dagger” manner in which this vote was cast, I was also bothered by a couple other points that were made during the discussion phase of this vote yesterday. First, the question of the legality of moving the monument. Council member Lige Daughtridge brought up the legal aspect of who owns the land, and whether or not the monument can *legally* be moved, and stressed that he didn’t want to see the city put itself in any sort of legal “bind” by doing something that was contrary to state law. Council member Andre Knight responded to Daughtridge’s concerns by commenting that he felt like the council itself should be more concerned with doing what is *right*, as opposed to doing what is *legal* (anyone else see the obscene irony in Mr. Knight’s comments?). The fact of the matter is that it IS illegal for the city to move that monument, unless it’s moved to an area of “equal access and equal prominence”. Moving it to private property, out of public view is also against the law. Putting it in storage for “safe keeping” is against the law, too. There’s no ambiguity here about what our state law says about historical artifacts. And Andre Knight knows this, because I told him so myself in a city council meeting two years ago!
The other (and equally disturbing) comment I heard was from council member T.J. Walker, who stated that while he was opposed to violence and the destruction of private property, “his generation” was likely to tear down the monument if it’s left standing, and this was his basis for voting in favor of removing the monument from its current location. In other words, because there are some young peoole in this city who are likely to tear the monument down anyway, we should go ahead and take it down before they destroy it. Here’s a thought, why wouldn’t we instead EDUCATE our young people about history, and the reason why that monument was erected in the first place? And why wouldn’t we stress to them that anarchy and lawlessness is NOT the way a civilized society acts? I guess it’s just easier to remove anything that’s likely to cause them “emotional duress” from their view, and “protect” them from the big ol’ mean world in which we live, huh?
I also found it disturbing that this council is willing to undertake this action after they have obtained overwhelming evidence over the last couple of years, that this monument just isn’t on most people’s radar. The four public meetings held two years ago (at a cost of $40,000!) CLEARLY showed that the vast majority of people in this city are completely indifferent about that monument. Leave it alone, tear it down…MOST people in this city, black and white alike, simply don’t CARE! Why on earth do we have to spend the thousands of dollars required to move this monument, because a handful of people take offense at it being there? The answer is simply because this has been a promise made by council members Knight and Blackwell, to some of their most ardent supporters. It’s that simple. It’s certainly not because there’s been a huge public outcry to take it down.
Lastly, my biggest concern is that if this council moves forward with these plans to take this monument down and “store it for safe keeping” as council member Blackwell stated, we’ll never see it again. And to me, that would truly be a miscarriage of justice. That monument has stood for over a hundred years. It’s been a defining piece of this city’s skyline, and it’s been a memorial to our war dead since 1977 when it was rededicated to the memory of ALL of our war veterans. In spite of what some believe, that monument does indeed have “value”. And the messages inscribed on it are messages of hope and honor, not oppression and shame. Those who look upon that monument and see ugliness and hate, see those things because that’s what they CHOOSE to see. And that my friends isn’t a problem caused by that monument simply *being* there; it’s caused by a lack of understanding and a lack of knowledge. Taking that monument down won’t solve a single problem we have in this city. It won’t feed a single hungry person, nor house a single homeless person, nor help a single struggling family put food on the table.
The ONLY thing that will be accomplished by removing that monument from its rightful resting place, is that we’ll be hiding a portion of our local history from future generations. And to what benefit? What will we gain from taking down a monument that has stood all these years? The hatred that exists in the hearts of some people in this town, won’t be erased by taking down that monument, and not a single person will be better off afterwards. Let’s at least be honest about what’s happening here and not try to pass it off as something it’s not. What it’s NOT, is “doing the right thing”. What it IS, is allowing Andre Knight and those who agree with him, to have a “victory”. At taxpayer expense!