The recent brouhaha over the removal of statues of southern Civil War generals raises the issue of propriety (“No rush to find homes for Baltimore’s Confederate monuments,” Sept. 27). Statues of military heroes are erected to commemorate their bravery, sacrifice and military acumen, but the ultimate question is: Can one separate the soldier from the cause for which he is fighting?
The obvious answer is “no” if that cause is immoral. Yes, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were heroes for the Southern Cause. They are beloved icons and their military feats are legendary, but so were the bravery and military feats of Attila the Hun, Ivan the Terrible and that great German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, the “Desert Fox,” who is adored and idolized by military historians the world over.
Germany would not consider building a statue in remembrance of General Rommel although he certainly stands in comparison to Messrs. Lee and Jackson. That statue would be a bitter reminder of Nazi atrocities and a crass offense to those whose ancestors suffered under the Third Reich — 6 million Jews in particular. Of course, many in the South today would argue that the Civil War, or the “War of Northern Aggression” as some in the South still prefer to call it, was not about slavery but “states’ rights.” Well yes, but it was about “states’ rights” to own slaves. All attempts to shroud that cause in code and euphemism are palpably absurd.