We’ve been hearing a lot about statues and monuments recently.
So let me say at the outset that there are a lot more important issues facing our nation.
Removing confederate statues and monuments will not eliminate racial, ethnic, religious or gender discrimination in employment (including disparate wages), housing, voter disenfranchisement, law enforcement or any of the other areas in which discrimination continues to put the lie to claims of due process and equal protection of the law.
Those are the real objectives.
That said, it seems clear that those seeking to prevent the removal of confederate statues and monuments by claiming that they are part of our country’s history and culture are on pretty shaky ground.
First, the history and culture that they memorialize are the institution of slavery and the treasonous attempt to secede from the Union.
For the most part, they were erected at the end of the Reconstruction Era by a white population asserting its claimed supremacy over former slaves and their families.
They accompanied the introduction of Jim Crow laws which resulted in legalized segregation in education, housing, employment, voting and every other aspect of life.
These laws were enforced by a whites-only judicial system, the Ku Klux Klan and other extrajudicial means including lynching.
The confederate statues and monuments not only celebrated the “lost cause,” but affirmed that white supremacy was alive and well in the South.
Second, those who seek to defend these confederate memorials engage in false equivalency when they suggest that we should also tear down memorials to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and others who were slave owners. Washington and Jefferson were not traitors who sought to tear asunder the United States, but devoted their lives to strengthening the country.
Third, there are certain aspects of a nation’s history and culture that are undeserving of memorials.
Adolf Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Himmler and the Nazi era are certainly part of German history and culture, but no one other than a neo-Nazi would suggest erecting monuments and statues to their memory.
One other matter that deserves attention this week.
Donald Trump described Hurricane Harvey as a once in 500 years storm.
Memo to Mr. Trump: this is the third 500-year flood to hit the Houston area in the last three years.
Not to mention the extraordinary storms and flooding in other parts of the world.
Certainly no single event can be definitively blamed on climate change, but climatologists have been predicting for quite a while that global warming will lead to more powerful storms.
And, yet, we do nothing to intervene.
This is not the time for climate change deniers like Mr. Trump to dig in their heels.
It is not the time for Houston to continue to pave over the wetlands that are needed to absorb the rainfall.
It is past time that we acknowledge what science has been telling us about rising temperatures and rising seas and apply our human intelligence to do something about it.
We owe it to our children and grandchildren to conserve our environment, not destroy it. Isn’t that what conservatives are supposed to do?
Meanwhile, we need to increase, not decrease, funding for emergency management because the next 500-year storm is coming very soon.
Jay N. Feldman