Just one day into the New Year vandals desecrated numerous Confederate graves and monuments with spray paint in Raleigh’s historic Oakwood Cemetery. From tiny markers for privates, to headstones for old generals and from a large obelisk to an entire military unit, to a special bronze plaque for the lost crew of the pioneering submarine Hunley, all were defaced.

The villains involved seem to suffer from a high degree of cowardice, given the fact that they only felt safe attacking those long dead and at night. What great warriors for freedom are these maladroit mice.

The death of a single man can be a terrible thing. In my opinion, history and historic relics are man’s nearest form of immortality. Perhaps destroying history is akin to killing a man all over again or even an entire civilization.

I suspect the vandals involved do not realize that they are but a branch on the tree called ISIS. The ISIS people are bit more professional and tend to use high explosives in their efforts to destroy human history, but these vandals and ISIS are, ultimately, one and the same.

They say that history can be our greatest teacher. If this is true, historic things must be preserved in their purest form, entirely consistent with the era they are associated with. Otherwise, the lessons will not be as strong as they may need to be and if we choose to eliminate history that we do not approve of, then there will be nothing to learn from.

Implied in the vandalism, I suppose, is the notion that all monuments, historic buildings, headstones, battlefields and other relics of the past must constantly be corrected through elimination or destruction so as to be consistent with the current days political and moral philosophies.

Ironically, the history the vandals seek to destroy, won’t then be available to help support their claims, perspectives and to remind us of those wrongs, if they are wrongs. This is why concentration camps are so carefully preserved and why the Germans worked so desperately to destroy them at war’s end.

Clearly, morality does evolve and 150 years ago in many places in this country and around the world, slavery was considered acceptable. Today we breed, raise and slaughter all varieties of livestock with virtually none of us giving it a second thought. It is as things have always been. However, any pet owner will insist that their beloved companion exhibits deep and complex indications of personality, loyalty and intelligence.

Perhaps 150 years from now we will knock over Frank Perdue’s gravestone and vilify anyone who has accepted support from the charitable Perdue foundation…

I was watching Ken Burns’s Civil War series the other night, sharing it with my young son for the first time. I was again taken aback by the notion of treating human beings from Africa as if they were purely animals.

The idea that this had been the case as recently as 150 years ago and that it has taken another 100 years since then to almost entirely erase such beliefs is a very uncomfortable truth. Were only it 1,000 years ago.

Let us talk, let us debate, let us read and ponder, but leave the old markers alone for they have value. They are teaching touch points, they are road signs that mark our pathway through time.

It all reminds me of an ironic truth that I feel I can spot around the world and through time. The downtrodden, the enslaved, the horrifically wronged all become strong one day. However, so often when they have obtained the power to smite those who had wronged them, those prior villains are no longer with us and there is no one left to punish.

 How to best deal with that unfulfilled quest and hunger and appetite for revenge is a great question.


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