Although I no longer live there, I will always love Meade County.
It’s where I was raised. It’s where my family taught me right from wrong. It’s where I made lifelong friendships, and it’s where I found a passion for my current career that was helped along by a list of positive influences too long to list.
I will always love my home.
That’s why it’s so painful to see what played out downtown recently, the latest benchmark in what has been an unnecessary embarrassment since 2016. I will use that word – “unnecessary” – again because it’s what I keep coming back to when I think this through.
I understand Meade County’s history and its complex ties to the Civil War. To use that as your sole context is to freeze in time, completely overlook change, and to be too stubborn to course-correct. A monument, deemed inappropriate and insensitive in a volatile time in our country, was enthusiastically claimed with little to no awareness or empathy. I understand that support may be overwhelmingly in favor of the monument within Meade County. I feel compelled to tell you that doesn’t make it right. It’s divisive, it’s hurtful to many, and most of all, it’s an unnecessary, extremely recent mistake that is fairly open to criticism.
Also fairly open to criticism was city officials’ use of social media to “alert” citizens to a potential protest of the monument. Call it whatever you want, but the message’s intention was transparent, sensational and inflammatory, and its tone and content did what any sane person would expect it to do – mobilize external groups as well as some hateful citizens to bully, cause fear and flex strength meant to demoralize or discourage the other side.
In the Washington Post in 2017, the county judge executive recalled telling a concerned Black resident of Meade County: “Don’t worry, we’re not going to let people come down there and throw a fit and have Confederate flags and call names.” It took less than three years to break that promise.
I don’t support vandalism, looting, or any of the other destructive things that some may have been convinced they were there to stop the other night.
But you know how all of this could have been avoided? By not throwing up your hand to take in an unnecessary relic that causes pain in the first place.
Removing the monument is not one side giving up. It’s not removing an iconic piece of town history that’s existed for generations. It’s undoing an ill-conceived decision that shouldn’t have been made to begin with – so that a town isn’t known from bringing hurt and division for the purpose of “tourism,” “embracing history,” “bringing new life to the county” or any of the other flimsy reasons presented four years ago. I don’t begrudge the town for trying to do something to better one of its most attractive areas. But this has done the opposite.
This years-long display is the only impression of this city for many outside of it. Some won’t agree with that, and some don’t care. And that’s your right. But it’s the truth, and it’s a truth I hope many with the power to make change in a place I love reflect on and consider in greater detail.
I understand there are many discussions and plenty of work that would have to happen to make the monument’s removal a reality. That’s not an excuse to not act. I also know there would be a cost associated with the project. If the monument is removed, I will make a personal donation to the city earmarked for the monument’s removal and the beautification of the wonderful downtown location afterward. I would bet others would be willing to donate as well. Turn this into something that brings people together around the betterment of the waterfront instead of pulling them apart.
My intention with this letter is not to create further division or to spread more hate. It’s to make it go away. Brandenburg existed for generations without this statue. It’s a small blip in its history. We can find other and better ways to improve it. Please do what’s right and remove this monument.