As the Great-Great Grandson of Captain Nicholas Charles Burke, 2D Maryland Cavalry, CSA, I am greatly disturbed by the actions of politicians in Baltimore (my hometown) and elsewhere in tearing down monuments to Civil War heroes and veterans. Such behavior is frighteningly similar to Stalinist Russia or ISIS in Syria: blowing up or removing historical artifacts solely because some in power subjectively find them “offensive.” This tyranny of the mob is very frightening and will lead to more violence as happened in Charlottesville, where violent Leftists threw bags of urine, chunks of concrete and acid at their political opponents and a White Supremacist drove his vehicle into that crowd.
Many of those that oppose such monuments or the flying the Confederate Battle Flag only see them as representative of “racism, slavery and division.” Ignoring the obvious 1st Amendment concerns, it is too bad they has not bothered to read and comprehend a wit of history. As so eloquently explained by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1960, responding to the concerns of a citizen criticizing the former five-star Commander of Supreme Headquarters Allied Forces Europe (SHAFE) in WWII for his oft-spoken praise of Robert E. Lee:
August 9, 1960
Dear Dr. Scott:
Respecting your August 1 inquiry calling attention to my often expressed admiration for General Robert E. Lee, I would say, first, that we need to understand that at the time of the War between the States the issue of secession had remained unresolved for more than 70 years. Men of probity, character, public standing and unquestioned loyalty, both North and South, had disagreed over this issue as a matter of principle from the day our Constitution was adopted.
General Robert E. Lee was, in my estimation, one of the supremely gifted men produced by our Nation. He believed unswervingly in the Constitutional validity of his cause which until 1865 was still an arguable question in America; he was a poised and inspiring leader, true to the high trust reposed in him by millions of his fellow citizens; he was thoughtful yet demanding of his officers and men, forbearing with captured enemies but ingenious, unrelenting and personally courageous in battle, and never disheartened by a reverse or obstacle. Through all his many trials, he remained selfless almost to a fault and unfailing in his faith in God. Taken altogether, he was noble as a leader and as a man, and unsullied as I read the pages of our history.
From deep conviction, I simply say this: a nation of men of Lee’s calibre would be unconquerable in spirit and soul. Indeed, to the degree that present-day American youth will strive to emulate his rare qualities, including his devotion to this land as revealed in his painstaking efforts to help heal the Nation’s wounds once the bitter struggle was over, we, in our own time of danger in a divided world, will be strengthened and our love of freedom sustained.
Such are the reasons that I proudly display the picture of this great American on my office wall.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Unfortunately, 57 years later, the body politic of 21st Century America appears to lack the civility and wisdom of General Eisenhower. As so pithily observed by a retired Marine Colonel friend of mine, “As many of you may know, there is a section of Confederate graves in Arlington National Cemetery. So what’s next — exhume them and toss them in a dump?”
Don’t laugh, as that is exactly what some idiots in Memphis recently attempted to do to the remains of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Only a court’s injunction saved poor Forrest’s remains from being dug up again. Now, before the hew and cry sounds over Forrest’s being the founder of the KKK, a deeper understanding of history will show that he (1) started that organization to counter the brutality of Northern carpetbaggers during Reconstruction and (2) renounced his membership when it became a racially-focused organization. In fact, he was an oft-invited guest speaker at African-American churches later in life. Redemption anyone? But, that forgiveness would spoil that one song that the true Fascists like to sing: racist Whites are oppressing minorities.