Contextualize monument

Published 4:09 pm Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

Our county’s Confederate monument memorializing those Isle of Wight soldiers whose final resting place is unknown must continue to stand where it has for more than a century. Erasing American history by those who despise it only ensures continuing conflict and division among well-meaning citizens.

One of the options advanced by our county’s Monument Task Force was for it to remain in place but with the addition of some signage that explains its “context” within the history of our county and the nation as a whole. This is the best solution.

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The wonderful story of our own county’s lengthy historical human record through 10,000 years of American Indian culture and the more recent 400 years of English Christian “improvement” has suffered greatly in recent years.

The adoption of commonwealth-level “Standards of Learning” has virtually eliminated all local history instruction in our public schools. The defunding of our county’s Department of Historic Resources by a now discredited and vengeance-seeking county “administrator” (who did not even live here!) was a serious blow to the teaching of our own local history. Years of cooperation in embedding local history curricula disappeared. And now misguided members of our own community, egged on by the malicious and culture-canceling “BLM” mobs, want to further erase vestiges of our past.

Where does all this lead? Will our past no longer exist to instruct us for the future? Are we destined to make the same mistakes over and over because we chose to “cancel” and forget local history?

Yes, we Americans have made mistakes. All societies do. Although we have made far fewer than most. But does this mean erasing the knowledge gained by overcoming these mistakes? Must we tear down physical reminders that are currently “offensive”? Must all pre-1865 “historic” homes in Smithfield now be demolished because they were built wholly or in part by slave labor? Should the historically malplaced “Schoolhouse Museum” be returned to its proper original site because it offends many who know and love our real history?

Our community should now come together and deal with our past as it really is. Not by destroying parts of it, but by preserving it for the teaching of future generations.

Let’s all agree to leave existing remnants of our history in place. We can make an effort to “contextualize” them for better understanding and acceptance of all points of view. This will unite our community and not continue to divide us.

Let’s come together!


Albert Burckard