With all the attention on the white nationalist terrorist attack in Charlottesville, let’s not forget Uncle Sam’s curious comforting of treasonous Confederates.
While places such as Maryland, New Orleans and Charlottesville have taken action against proslavery and Confederate statues, 10 U.S. military bases continue to honor the rebels by carrying names of their leaders.
Consider the irony — American military facilities are named after Confederate generals who waged war on the United States government and killed its troops. How crazy is that?
All 10 bases are located in the former Confederacy, according to a Southern Poverty Law Center list. They are:
- Fort Rucker (Gen. Edmund Rucker), Ala.
- Fort Benning (Brig. Gen. Henry L. Benning), Ga.
- Fort Gordon (Maj. Gen. John Brown Gordon), Ga.
- Camp Beauregard (Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard), La.
- Fort Polk (Gen. Leonidas Polk), La.
- Fort Bragg (Gen. Braxton Bragg), N.C.
- Fort Hood (Gen. John Bell Hood), Tex.
- Fort A.P. Hill (Gen. A.P. Hill), Va.
- Fort Lee (Gen. Robert E. Lee), Va.
- Fort Pickett (Gen. George Pickett), Va.
Additional tributes come in the form of state flags that include Confederate symbols and decorate congressional hallways.
More shameful are the statues of confederates that disgrace the Capitol complex. A story by colleague Mike DeBonis, aptly headlined “A field guide to the racists commemorated inside the U.S. Capitol,” lists these white supremacists who are venerated by Congress:
- Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, Confederate president and former U.S. senator and representative
- Alexander Hamilton Stephens of Georgia, Confederate vice president
- John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, proslavery senator
- Wade Hampton III of South Carolina, Confederate general
- Charles Brantley Aycock, a North Carolina governor who worked to disenfranchise African Americans and bragged that “we have solved the negro (sic) problem. … We have taken him out of politics and have thereby secured good government.”
Confederate military officers honored with statues on the Capitol grounds are:
- Robert E. Lee of Virginia
- James Zachariah George of Mississippi
- Edmund Kirby Smith of Florida
- Joseph Wheeler of Alabama.
“We will never solve America’s race problem if we continue to honor traitors who fought against the United States in order to keep African Americans in chains,” said Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric L. Richmond (D-La.) “By the way, thank God, they lost.”
No help in solving the “race problem” comes from President Trump, who continues, appallingly, to comfort white nationalists by leveling “blame on both sides” for the Charlottesville violence.
The Confederate tributes — base names, statues and flag representations — revere those who supported the enslavement of African Americans. The display of Confederate symbols today is an affirmation of white supremacy and black oppression. But that is not the only reason all Americans should be outraged.
Even Confederate battle flag-waving racists who consider themselves patriotic should consider the treason the symbols represent.
Many of these memorials honor those who, although not tried as traitors, certainly fit this Constitutional definition: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”
Removing the military base names and the statues is not erasing history. In fact, more people need to know the true history of the Confederacy, so they won’t get stuck in the “that’s my heritage” trap. How can any self-described patriot glorify those who killed American troops?
Patriotic organizations of veterans, whose professional ancestors were killed by Confederates, have been slow to condemn the rebel symbols. But the largest group, the American Legion, now has done so.
In reaction to the attack in Charlottesville, where Nazi sympathizer James Alex Fields Jr. allegedly rammed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd, killing Heather Heyer, the American Legion issued this condemnation: “Americans fought fascism and crushed the Nazis in World War II, and anyone who waves a Nazi flag on our soil is, by very definition, anti-American. The disgusting displays of hatred and bigotry on display in Charlottesville dishonor all veterans who fought and died to stamp out fascism. We have one flag: the American flag. We are one people: the American people.”
Two Virginia State Police officers, H. Jay Cullen and Berke Bates, who had monitored the demonstrations related to the planned removal of a Lee statue, also died when their helicopter crashed.
The Legion’s statement did not mention the Confederate battle flag, which also was displayed by those protesting the statue’s removal. So I asked if the Legion considers those displaying that flag to be “by very definition, anti-American.”
It took some prodding, but the Legion answered “yes.” That was the first time the Legion has condemned the flag of treason. Other major veterans’ groups have remained silent. The Legion had nothing to say about changing the base names.
Neither did a Pentagon spokesman, who offered “at this time, there is no discussion on this topic.”
There needs to be, and Congress is the ideal place. But no one is leading the charge on this point.
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) did lead an effort to ban the flying of Confederate banners on Department of Veterans Affairs and National Park Service cemetery flagpoles. His legislation did not pass, but VA decided not to allow Confederate flags on permanently fixed flagpoles. Last month, the Black Caucus filed a Supreme Court brief in support of a Mississippi resident’s complaint that incorporating a Confederate emblem in the state flag denies him “equal treatment and dignity under the law.”
That emblem also denies the dignity of the United States. Honoring the traitors and racists of the Confederacy, particularly by the U.S. government, should be as unthinkable as providing them presidential succor.