Many of those defending statues to Confederate leaders like Robert E. Lee argue that, if we remove them on the grounds that they participated in or defended the evil institution of slavery, what does that say about America's Founding Fathers? Won't they come for the Founders next? Today, it's Robert E. Lee's statue in Charlottesville, Virginia. How much longer before we're talking about the Washington Memorial in our nation's capital?
The President seemed to echo this sentiment in his rather disjointed news conference earlier today. As part of his disjointed and highly controversial remarks about the Charlottesville violence, Trump said: "[M]any of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. So, this week it's Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself where does it stop?"
Let me say something very controversial (but keep reading before you jump on me)...
Donald Trump is partly right.
Now, before your brain explodes, let me explain. Trump is wrong to defend (or express sympathy for) the white nationalist protesters at the center of the violence this past weekend in Charlottesville. He's shamefully (and inexcusably) wrong to have not sooner denounced white supremacy as well as the white nationalist and neo-Nazi protesters that caused so much pain and suffering in Charlottesville (and to our nation's spirit). And then, after he eventually did so, he completely undercut himself, seeming to walk that back in today's wacky and crazy news conference.
In NO way am I defending Donald Trump and how he's handled this whole sad, shameful episode in our history. But...
He is correct that many in our country are not content to stop with Confederate leaders. They will come for the Founding Fathers next. In fact, in some cases, they already have.
For more on this topic (and if you'll forgive the self-promo), I encourage you to check out "George Washington and Robert E. Lee Are Not The Same" over at my blog on the American Revolution.
While I do not believe the Confederacy should be celebrated or memorialized as a noble cause, I do believe the Founding Fathers deserve our respect and a place of honor in public life. And I will vigorously oppose any effort to downgrade their hero status. I won't defend the statue to Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, but I will fiercely defend to my dying breath the Washington Monument in our nation's capital.