Even this Confederate general thought monuments were a bad idea. His reasons make sense.

On Aug. 17, Donald Trump began the day as only he could: with a full-throated defense of the Confederacy.

Responding to renewed calls to remove Confederate monuments across the country, Trump decried action, protecting them on aesthetic (yes, the man who sticks everything in gold and slaps his name on it’s thoughts on personality) and historic motives. Sigh.

While Trump might not take advice from those from the #FakeNewsMedia, there is 1 person he should listen on this dilemma: Robert E. Lee.

Yes, that Robert E. Lee. Confederate Gen. Robert. E. Lee.

He had some thoughts on if these monuments should be built in the first place, as it turns out. In short, he was against it.

Charlottesville, Virginia’s Robert E. Lee statue has been the center of a current march by white supremacists. Photo from Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

In a December 1868 letter, Lee dealt with a proposal to build a monument in his honor:

“When it comes the erection of this monument as is contemplated; my certainty is, that nonetheless grateful it is to the feelings of the South, the effort at the present condition of the Country, would have the effect of retarding, rather than hastening its accomplishment; & of ongoing, if not adding to, the issues under which the Southern folks labour. All I believe can now be done, is to help our commendable & noble girls in their attempts to guard the graves and mark the last resting places of those who’ve fallen, & wait for better times.”

Quite simply, monuments celebrating the Confederacy would just serve to further split the newly-united United States and slow down any progress that had been made. Given that we are still arguing about flags and monuments more than 150 years since the war ended, Lee appears to have been perfect.

We do not need monuments celebrating the Confederacy to recall the Civil War, and nobody is erasing history by suggesting they be removed.

Some may assert that monuments glorifying soldiers are essential if we wish to avoid making the same mistakes and going to war with ourselves. That simply does not make sense.

Without erecting statues of Hitler across the country Germany has been able to remember the Nazis. In fact, the country made a concentrated effort to get rid of anything which could become the center of a neo-Nazi pilgrimage. They went so far as to reverse the area where Hitler died to a parking lot.

Moreover, it’s worth noting that the monuments themselves are not historical artifacts. Many are recent inventions. In fact, 32 Confederate monuments from the U.S. were constructed in just the last 17 years, a number of which were in Union nations. Going back further, many of these monuments were built as anti-black backlash into the civil rights movement. The same goes for Southern affinity toward the Confederate battle flag, which just rose from the 1950s and 1960s, again, in demonstration of the civil rights movement.

Confederate monuments along with the flag have less to do with the genuine Civil War and more related to resistance.

A 1969 photo of the carving at Stone Mountain, featuring Jefferson Davis, Robert E Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. Stone Mountain was the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan in 1915. The carving was not completed until 1972. Photo from Fox Photos/Getty Images.

If the goal truly is to prevent another Civil War, the answer isn’t to pepper the country with figurines, but to stop instructing a sanitized version of history.

The Civil War was fought over slavery. Stage.

Take it out of Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens, who at March 1861, said captivity and “the appropriate condition of the negro in our form of civilization” has been “the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution,” referring to the war. He added, “[T]he negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”

It appears simple, and yet a 2015 Marist poll found that just 53 percent of Americans agree that slavery was the driving force behind the Civil War, with 41% disagreeing with that statement. Some may argue that it was actually about “states’ rights,” but “states’ rights” to do exactly what? To own slaves.

We do need to stop sanitizing our history, which must begin with recognizing that our country has an ugly ago. Lee does not need your monuments, and he will never, ever be forgotten.

Let’therefore place this argument to rest and devote to better education, not glorification that is ahistorical.

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