Editorial by Chad Hobbs
A couple of weeks ago, this series started by focusing mainly on the profound effect a trip to the state capitol provided me, as a child. In that article, I spoke about how the dichotomy of Abraham Lincoln in the center of the Capitol Rotunda along with a lesser statue of Jefferson Davis behind him in the corner led me to a deep exploration of the Civil War and all things related to it. The fact that I needed to know more about how two men, both born in Kentucky, served as “Presidents” within the United States continental borders at the same time ultimately broadened my perspective.
My interactions with the black community of this county go back as far as I can remember and have been nothing but positive. I have broken bread and shared friendships with many who look nothing like me on the outside since I was a young child, staying at my grandparents’ house. This is where I was taught early on that skin color and gender are mute points; it is the heart of a person that truly matters. I say this for the simple fact that we live in a time where words and intentions are constantly twisted, and unfortunately, the word racism is thrown around often today even when there is no justification.
I cannot speak for anyone other than myself and from my own experiences, but I think it is an experience worth at least telling. Communication is one of our biggest problems today. We often only want to hear that which is agreeable to our own agenda.
With that being said, I offer a discussion contrary to the main talking points of statues today. It is not to deter or take away from anyone’s opinion that differs from mine, but hopefully offer a path to healing for us all.
In my early twenties, I had the chance to go play football at a college outside of Boston, Massachusetts. After the spring semester had ended, I rerouted my return trip home so that it would pass through southeastern Pennsylvania. I called ahead and told my parents not to expect me for another day because I had decided to spend two days walking the fields and woods of the Gettysburg battlefield.
There is something profound about walking that land. Markers and monuments are scattered for miles, but as numerous as those are today, they pale in comparison to the approximately 51,000 men who had lost their lives there. Standing in front of those monuments, both Union and Confederate, there was no joy or jubilation. It was a somber feeling, at best, as the history books almost came to life before me. A sadness on how far astray part of this country had become back in its earliest days, and the gut wrenching thought of how terrible the price in blood would be by the end of the war. Somewhere between 600,000 to 800,000 Americans, many just boys or young men, would lose their lives by the end of the Civil War. That was part of the cost this country would have to pay for its original sin and to finally bring slavery to an end.
Now for much of my life, the downtown area of Brandenburg has been in many ways an eyesore. It is an area that struggled to ever recover after the tornado.
With walking trails, an amphitheater, multiple monuments and a return of businesses; the riverfront area is thriving again.
I took my young son down there for a walk one day. We started at the Civil War monument and the mural painted behind it, then made our way down to the historical markers and the Native American and Underground Railroad monuments. My son, every bit as inquisitive as his father was at his age, had a “what?” and “why?” for every stop we made. I didn’t know we were ready for the conversation that ensued, but rest assured those monuments led a pale skinned father with a southern draw from the backwoods of Flaherty to have a long, difficult conversation with his son, a spitting image of his father, about the stains of the past. Tough topics such as slavery, racism and skin color were on the agenda because my son had laid eyes upon that Civil War soldier, Native American, and African American lady and child, that make up the three monuments on the riverfront.
That conversation would never have happened that day otherwise, and not only was my son all the better for it, but anyone he comes in contact with from that day forth will be as well.
So, my point is this: how can it be such a bad thing, such a racist thing, if it's leading white men to have conversations with their white sons about equality and sins of the past?
I ask this honestly, not dismissively as to any other stance. The last thing I want is to hurt or bring pain to anyone, especially here in our beloved Meade County. I realize that the monument was created to honor the Confederate dead. For those who detest the monument, maybe a change of perspective may be offered. It was their death that, ultimately, allowed freedom and the hope for equality for all to take place.
Maybe we should all celebrate that, regardless of our views, instead of just tearing it down.
If we truly want to find a way to walk hand in hand, I, for one, can attest that those statues at the riverfront played a huge role in me sharing that hope with my son.
For my house, atleast, it didn’t teach hate or division. In fact, it was a lesson of acceptance and love.