In the midst of so much angst and hate and misgivings and doubt, how can one even possibly attempt to write about what is going on?
Where does one even start?
A loosely connected stream of conscious rant through things said and words meant and thoughts expanding and horizons possible?
Because, how am I supposed to respond when a coworker asks, “You ever go back to Oklahoma? Do they accept you? Or, are you just kind of a guest?”
How do I respond? When it was said completely out of nowhere as I sit at a round plastic table eating my “Women’s Health” blend of trail mix in the former cafeteria space, now staff lounge. Perhaps, I could have taken the guidance of the third episode of “Conversations with People Who Hate Me,” and began a dialogue. A dialogue to emphasize I am a real person. I am not something that is not to be believed in. I exist.
Because, how am I supposed to ignore the results of Facebook stalking my mom’s post and finding that she shared the following gem from my 7th/8th grade history and government teacher:
“So (redacted school district) is mulling over a name change for Robert E. Lee elementary because of Lee’s participation in the Civil War. Kind of silly don’t you think considering that Lee was a well respected leader before, during, and after the war. He played a large roll in continuing education at college level serving as president of Washington and Lee University and raising it to one of leading colleges in the South after the war. This whole movement to try and erase black marks in history is ignorant. Without the Civil War and the loyalty of all who fought in it, how much longer would slavery have lasted? Changing names and removing monuments memorializing those involved will not erase that history. It will not repair any of the damage of that era. It changes nothing about how people feel today. Those things need to remain in place to remind us that we do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past. What is next, blowing up Mount Rushmore because those presidents or their families held slaves? The radical Muslim groups have tried this without success. History does not change because memorials are removed. History serves the purpose of creating CHANGE. Hopefully, positive change. For me, there is nothing positive about trying to change what happened in the past by trying to erase the evidence.”
And, I post this here, not with her permission, since I am not Facebook friends with her (or any of my family members for that matter), but due to a lack of privacy settings on her account, this post was made public for the world to see. So, I call dibs.
And, I do try to have a difficult conversation and follow the advice from my new podcast addiction.
I begin like this.
“Seriously? You are okay with monuments of the Confederacy?” (Perhaps, not the most diplomatic opening ever, but it is a start.)
“I liked what (redacted teacher’s name) said”
“Really? What part?”
“Can we argue tomorrow. I am having trouble sleeping and this will make it worse..”
“Sure. We can discuss this radical Christian traitor later.”
Again, not my most crowning moment of civil discussion, but the line “The radical Muslim groups have tried this without success” just bothers me to no end. So, the next day and before I get into the car to go see Brigsby Bear, I bring it up again.
“And, you still agree with the post you shared?”
“I see both sides. Yes I agree.”
“I thought the post was very clear”
“I am not sure what the argument in the post is. It is poorly written, difficult to follow, and just overall convoluted with a pinch of Islamaphobia.”
I don’t get another reply, and I can’t decide if I want one or not. Aside from the “both sides” argument ringing like a comment from the racist former host of Celebrity Apprentice, I don’t know what I want from this exchange.
Maybe, I just want to understand.
I just want to understand the different point of view that just seems outside of my realm of understanding.
It’s like on Twitter when someone from the #MAGA crowd posts a photoshopped picture of Democrats admitting 45 is president. I guess I just don’t understand the point. Just because something is the way it is doesn’t make it good or right or worth defending or worth arguing about. Posting a picture that simply states 45 is president doesn’t prove anything other than verifying, yes, while unbelievable, 45 is actually president.
But, just because he is president, that doesn’t mean he has good policies or high morals or is worthy of the office of president. Because, it is becoming clearer and clearer that he is sorely missing the mark.
But, I need a night away from it all, the news, the fear, the overwhelming sense of dread.
And, maybe, that is why I was totally enamored with Brigsby Bear.
Because it was a weird movie, but I loved it. It is one of the best movies I have seen in a long long time. And, I left the theater in a hazy fog of wonder. And, I felt ready to say what I needed to say, write what I needed to write, which brings me back almost full circle to this.
Why do I find my middle school social studies teacher’s post problematic?
Really? Robert E. Lee was a respected general? I wonder if the Union, or rather America at the time agreed with that, considering the fact that he was leading the war against America. Given the fact that he was a military traitor, leading a war against his own country in order to sustain slavery, it seems unlikely that he was well-respected.
But, I am not a history major, or even much of a history buff for that matter. So maybe, we should go with his own words. Since he was opposed to Confederate statues seeing how they “keep open the sores of war”.
Also, it is “role” not “roll”. If you are wanting to make a precise argument, check your homophones. Words matter. As far as I know, my former teacher is not an elected official but missing a homophone is in line with 45’s attempt to heel the nation.
And, what does this line even mean? “Without the Civil War and the loyalty of all who fought in it, how much longer would slavery have lasted?” Whose loyalty? Also, what? If all citizens had stayed loyal to the Union and stood against white supremacy then, would the Civil War even occurred? Unlikely.
And, the argument to remove Confederate statues has never been about removing and rewriting history. Instead, Confederate monuments were built to remind a subjugated people that while they were “free” they were not equal and must be reminded of their place.
And, to return to the great, what will happen next argument. “What is next, blowing up Mount Rushmore because those presidents or their families held slaves?” Just, ugh. Those individuals on Mount Rushmore actually contributed to the founding and success of this country, not its breaking and needless loss of life.
And, what is she even talking about her? “The radical Muslim groups have tried this without success.” Tried what? Who are these groups? Why do we have to attach “Muslim” as a descriptor? Because for historians keeping track, a radical Christian group took up arms against their countrymen and murdered for the sake of maintaining the inhumane institution of slavery. If you’re looking for a synonym for this group, go with Confederacy.
And, finally, no one is trying to erase history. Or, make people forget by removing these oppressive monuments. But, not everything deserves a monument. Just ask Germany when you look for the monuments dedicated to Hitler.
And to make a complete full circle, I really don’t know what my coworker meant by his questions.
But, I do know that this post got away from me.
I blame Brigsby Bear.
“Robert E. Lee Opposed Confederate Monuments”
“Baltimore’s Confederate Monument Was Never About ‘History and Culture’”