This is a local issue in my area. The monument in question lists the names of citizens of Talbot County who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. It has been there for over 100 years. Now, a group in Talbot County wants it removed because it offends them. Here’s my letter to the County Council regarding the issue:
Dear Members of the Talbot County Council,
I know you have heard every possible argument for and against the removal of the Talbot Boys Monument from the Courthouse lawn. Therefore, I won’t give you arguments but ask you questions that you need to think about regarding this action and all possible future actions that may be similar.
1. Does the County Council have the legal right to remove any monument off of public ground regardless of when the monument was placed there, who it is memorializing, and who placed the monument where it is? Also, is there any past precedent for this being done with other monuments? If not, you will be setting precendent for any and all monuments that will be placed on county property from here forward.
2. How many people must be offended by a monument or statue for it to qualify for removal? Must it be a majority of county residents? A certain percentage? One county resident? Have you defined this before considering removal or are you just playing it by ear? Is it the voice that shouts the loudest that gets your primary consideration?
3. Do people who do not live in this county have the right to influence the council’s decision on an action taken in this county? In the same vein, is money from outside Talbot County being used to influence the county’s decision? Is outside money being used to fund protests and actions? Where and who is this money from? Is money being used as a incentive for the county council to vote for or against removal?
4. In the future, if a group is offended by a statue on public property, will the council act in the same way regarding a request to have it removed? Will it matter what the ethnic, gender, or political affilliation of that group might be? Are certain groups given preferential treatment?
I believe you need to consider these questions carefully and honestly. I think this is an opportunity for you to teach the young people of our county many lessons. One is that history is history, good or bad. Second, being offended by something isn’t necessarily something they need to avoid, but something they should confront so they can resolve to move forward with the intent of facing reminders of an ugly past and rising above those events. It’s something all of us need to learn.
I am following this post with another addressing what is going on with issues like this one.