There is an old adage that “what is done in darkness will come to light.” City officials in Memphis who concocted a secret scheme to “sell” a couple of public parks for $1000 each in order to evade state law prohibiting removal of statues and monuments without proper approval may soon learn the truth of that saying. As soon as they “sold” the parks, two monuments to Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis were quickly removed by the “new private owners” in the dark of night.
More facts are coming to light, and it is increasingly clear that the scam was carefully orchestrated by the Mayor and local political activists to skirt the clear intent of the law. If it was such a good idea, why was it done secretly and without public input and debate?
Sadly, this is not the first (nor likely the last) time that Memphis has sought to avoid the rule of law in order to “do whatever they want to do.” From creating a sanctuary city in violation of state law to removing statues and monuments in violation of state law, Memphis is following a consistent pattern of creating some sort of “laws we don’t like don’t apply to us” island within the state.
The history of our nation and state, and those who have played key roles in shaping that history, is one of failures and accomplishments, shameful and selfless behavior, actions that should be applauded and those that leave us appalled. Like each of us personally, our past is flawed and as a nation we will always continue to strive and struggle to overcome our weaknesses and shortcomings. But it is wholly inappropriate to erase our history based on the emotional outbursts of those who seek to impose their own politically motivated views on that history.
We face serious problems in the very communities where statues and monuments are being removed. Not one of those serious problems, such as violent crime, educational failures, poverty, health challenges, broken families, and joblessness will be improved by removing plaques, monuments, statues or any other historical tribute. Demagoguery, divisive claims of bigotry and racism and threats of violence if those who are offended don’t get their way are all distractions from the real problems that plague communities like Memphis.
Real leadership requires us to recognize our history, even if we can’t all agree to celebrate certain portions of it. And real leaders should certainly agree that breaking the laws, and evading their clear intent, in order to satisfy the demands of small groups of activists, is NEVER the right thing to do. Especially when what is done has to be accomplished in secret and in the shadows.
America is great…in spite of ourselves. As we celebrate the greatness of those who have sacrificed to achieve what we often take for granted we should do so regardless of their color, gender, background or challenges. We should not let their shortcomings, as judged by those with a current political agenda, erase the good they achieved despite their failings in certain areas of their lives and in the context of their particular time in history. We should stand firm in recognizing, protecting and preserving our history and our heritage, even if all of it is not perfect or pure.
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Joe Carr is a former State Representative and is currently a candidate for the Republican nomination for State Senate in Middle Tennessee’s 14th Senatorial District.