Raise a New Orleans Monument to Louisiana Civil War Casualties
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It was the public position of the City of New Orleans that monuments to Confederate leaders should not be in public space because of their desire to promote inclusivity and healing of past conflicts. It was the position of Monument Preservationists that, first and foremost, veterans should not be dishonored even if the political ideals surrounding the conflicts in which they participated are reanalyzed by posterity.
The City of New Orleans admits publicly, through the current mayor, that it does not know what to do with the spaces where the removed monuments formerly occupied. Presumably they would wish to use said spaces to demonstrate those same ideals of inclusivity and healing. However, their position on the honor and memory of Louisiana Veterans remains unclear.
Many Louisiana citizens feel uneasy at the precedent set by the removal of war memorials, and rightly so. The state, and today the federal government, calls upon its citizens to render military service, yet now those citizens must face the prospect that should they live or die in that service, their memory will be discarded by the very authority which summoned them in the first place. Historically we have attempted to separate politics, and the sacrifice of our citizens during military service. We recognize that today’s wars may not be judged according to current values or political ideologies in posterity. The Vietnam War is controversial, as is the most recent Iraq conflict, as well as the conflict in Afghanistan, just to name three. We therefore feel that the political ideals of a conflict—often crafted by and benefiting the political class exclusively—and the soldiers who are summoned or volunteer themselves into service, should remain separated as a fundamental principle of our city, our state, and our nation.
We recognize that while some individuals felt that memorials to Confederate generals were inappropriate in a public space, many others felt that these monuments represented their own ancestors. By and large, Louisiana residents with antebellum period roots in this state have ancestors who fought for Louisiana, thousands of whom did not return from the battlefield. These individuals have a fundamental right to preserve an official memorial to the service and sacrifice their family members made. Veterans of modern conflicts, and active duty military today, should be secure that their service, up to the ultimate sacrifice, will be honored in perpetuity.
The Reunification period of the late 19th and early 20th centuries held that honoring the veterans on both sides was necessary to national unity and healing. They did so as a generation which included individuals who remembered their traumatic personal experiences of the war. We today, in most cases far removed from such traumatic events, should be led by their example.
We therefore propose that, in the spirit of unity, inclusion, and healing, especially after the tumultuous past two years since the current mayor announced his desire to remove Confederate monuments, one of the three more prominent sites be used to place a memorial to the men of Louisiana who were killed in action during the Civil War. The honor of the ordinary man who sacrifices his life in the service of his state, in the company of his brothers from his home city or town, must be preserved by all public servants, and there must be no doubt, no precedent set, whereby the sacrifice of today’s solider will be erased by tomorrow’s politician.
The government of New Orleans must declare, formally, and publicly, if it supports the honor and memory of Louisiana veterans. It stands accused of attacking the memory of Louisiana veterans with the removal of Confederate monuments; let it demonstrate that it truly meant only to distance itself from the political elements of the conflict, rather than to formally dishonor its own grandfathers, by raising a single monument to Louisiana’s Civil War dead. It is known to history that African Americans from Louisiana gave military service in this conflict; it is known that some Louisiana residents fought for the North. All Louisiana veterans who fell in this conflict should be honored, which promotes even further the spirit of healing and unity between Louisiana citizens.
This honor, to the ordinary fighting man who died doing his duty as he saw it, with no political or financial gain to himself, is a small thing to ask, after the divisive conflict of the past two years. A single monument site, to the men who gave their lives in military service during this bloody conflict, is no less than honor, grace, inclusion, and healing demands.
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