I honeymooned in Sante Fe, New Mexico. This city is noteworthy for many reasons but it is the answer to two questions that will win you free drinks in a trivia contest. First, it is the third oldest European settlement in North America following St. Augustine and Jamestown. Second, it was the only state or territorial capital outside of the original Confederate States to be occupied by Confederate forces. More on this later.
The town surrounds a several-acre open square which has or had at its center an impressive stone monument commemorating military campaigns of national consequence. In February 1862, Confederate forces from Texas were defeated at Valverde outside Sante Fe. Following the end of the Civil War, “bluecoats” waged war against “savage tribes” and “savage indians” for decades. These battles were lionized with triumphal language on the four sides of the monument.
A decade ago some locals took offense at this language and chiseled the word “savage” from the face of the stone plaques. In an effort to engender amity and to reconcile the divergent viewpoints represented by the original language Sante Fe placed an interpretive sign in front of the obelisk. It read:
“Monument texts reflect the character of the times in which they are written and the temper of those who wrote them. This monument was dedicated in 1868 near the close of a period of intense strife which pitted northerner against southerner, Indian against white, Indian against Indian. Thus, we see on this monument, as in other records the use of such terms as ‘savage’ and ‘rebel.’ Attitudes change and prejudices hopefully dissolve.”
Last year the “Woke Culture,” or at least eight members of this movement, judged the monument despite its interpretive signs inexcusably offensive, insensitive and unnecessary. In broad daylight and in full sight of law authorities, they toppled the massive stone pillar. This week District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies determined that in the interest of “restorative justice” she would allow those who “allegedly destroyed” the 150-year-old monument to enter a pre-prosecution program and avoid jail time and fines in exchange for performing constructive and helpful community service. In her words, their acts were political in nature and did not constitute criminal acts.
The disposition of this case mirrors the manner the municipal authorities in Decatur, Georgia, handled the removal of their offending Confederate monument in front of the courthouse. In an effort to satisfy protestors “Truth telling” or interpretive signs were first affixed to the grounds in front of the memorial. But this did not placate the cancel mob. After the monument was repeatedly defaced while the city turned a blind eye, Decatur deemed the statue a “public nuisance” and tore it down. Applying this same logic, if the Sons of Confederate Veterans repeatedly defaced the interpretive signs, the city would be obliged to remove them.
It appears Gov. Kemp has bought into this now predictable game plan or script in regards to Confederate references at Stone Mountain: Apply re-interpretive script on existing monuments. Efface or remove offending references, flags and inscriptions, and then eliminate the original reference points entirely. Sanitize and whitewash. Scrub and placate. Finally, award the vandals with a community service medal.
Michael A. Scott