From monument to impediment?

Augusta can show the nation how to respect our shared, diverse heritage

The current wave of anti-Confederate hysteria is ill-considered and, at times, hot-headed. In Durham, N.C., where a mob toppled a memorial, it was downright criminal.

 

But the sentiment is completely understandable at its core, and it’s time we deal with it – peacefully and rationally.

We implore Augusta, which features a prominent memorial on Broad Street, to deal with it coolly, calmly and collegially – ideally with months of civil discussion, empathy and community consensus.

State law may help that deliberateness along: It prohibits the removal or concealment of war memorials, even by local governments.

Absent some legislative change in Atlanta, that would seem to preclude any hasty action, or any action, for that matter, by the Augusta community.

But we need to talk it out.

Regardless of what we do, we must do it together. Not with anger and protest or, as in Charlottesville and Durham, violence and antagonism. It’s not necessary to re-litigate the Civil War in order to decide what to do with a memorial to it.

Is there no way to reconcile the revulsion for the legacy of slavery with the reasonable desire not to expunge every vestige of the past?

In the name of brotherhood and common interest, we’ve got to accommodate our very different but shared heritage.

We should also consider to what end we’re heading. It’s quite possible we could, as state Rep. Geoff Duncan of Cumming put it, make a point without making a difference.

We must also remember, the point of this exercise is to create good feelings, not bad.

Augusta may have a greater stake in this dilemma than most. Our community has, in recent years, made a long-awaited and appropriate transition to shared power and responsibility, with the addition of a black mayor, sheriff, marshal, majority-black commission and more. We are all the better for it. We can’t think of a time when relations have been better.

Moreover, Augusta’s future seems brighter than most, with the consolidation of the U.S. Army’s Cyber Command at nearby Fort Gordon, the building of the $60 million Hull McKnight Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center on the river and more cyber-related industry expected to descend or grow here.

It’s essential that unnecessary animus not get in the way – or give even one business a single moment’s pause before locating here. The axis of such a decision can be razor-thin.

We cannot lose the future by clinging too tightly to the past.

It’s waited 150 years. There’s no reason to rush through this.

Can we please everyone? Of course not. But perhaps we can come to an accord that, while imperfect, may be perfectly livable.

We honestly don’t have any choice. So we ought to make the best of it.

We encourage those at the NAACP rally at the monument in the 700 block of Broad Street at 6 p.m. Thursday to express their heartfelt views. And we echo local chapter President Beulah Nash-Teachey’s call for “a new and inclusive understanding of our shared history that recognizes and respects everyone’s heritage” – though that would seem to conflict with the state chapter’s call for blanket removal of all signs of the Confederacy. That’s not how to build consensus.

Preserving the past while respecting everyone’s heritage? Let’s show them how to do it.

 

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