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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Statue on a Courthouse Lawn

On the lawn of the one courthouse in this county stands a single statue. It is of an unknown Confederate soldier. I have seen it many times, yet I can't give any sort of accurate, detailed description of it. That is partly because, despite its prominent placement where you can't miss seeing it any time you approach the courthouse's front entrance, that figure is distinctly low key as such creations go, and the soldier isn't doing anything in particular except just standing there in an "at ease" position, if I remember right.

I think it's mounted on a small stone pedestal, and the figure itself is about two feet high, though I'm sure that those whose breathing is caught up short every time they see it will snort loudly and shout that it is actually four feet high, and bigger. But that all has to depend on what the statue means to a person. So, because this one is devoted to the memory of those who fought for all they were worth for four years to preserve the right to keep people like me in a state of abject penury and bondage, I'll stick to my perception that it is about one foot tall -- or less.

Until now I never thought much about that statue, and I suspect that, going by the total absence of any mentions of it that I've ever heard, few people of any persuasion in this county think much about it either. But yesterday an article in the news alerted me anew to the fact that, because this figure doesn't represent a general or even a captain but just an ordinary enlisted man, it belongs to a special genre of such statues, though I already knew that, having seen a bunch up in New England as well. But I didn't know that, with about a hundred, Virginia has more of these than any other state in the South. And most interesting, this one in the county where I live was the last erected, in 1965, two years after the watershed March on Washington and in the year when some of the most important Civil Rights laws were being enacted.

I don't know what that lste date relative to the rest of Virginia means. though I should say here that, compared to most other states of the South and other parts of the country as well, the Civil Rights movement was met with little if any outright violence in Virginia that I know of, which is why I had few qualms about moving here just a few years later

When I first saw that statue, fresh out of D.C., I thought it looked forlorn, funny, and incredibly modest, compared to what I was used to seeing and had likewise ignored without any trouble. As you know, Washington is chock full of statues of not only war heroes but also many other people, and most of those are really substantial figures that you wouldn't want toppling over on you. The generals and such from the older wars are usually seated on magnificent steeds, but the figures from the newer wars are more likely not to be of such high rank and to be instead standing on their own two feet.

Still, there are so many statues and also whole buildings devoted to memorials in D.C. that in my mind they tended to lose their meaning just by being there all the time. And actually I wonder if D.C. isn't destined for the fate that befell Rome. I recall seeing an engraving of how that once architecturally magnificent city looked a few centuries later, in the Middle Ages, when it seemed to be more than half buried in debris and millions of tons of soil hauled in or otherwise deposited, with the tops of once grand edifices sticking up at random out of the ground and of no more significance to the inhabitants grubbing there for a living than any old outcropping of rock.

Similarly for all their substance, those statues in what should be called "Monument City" instead of "the Nation's Capital" are of interest and utility only to the numerous pigeons of the city, and similarly this one on the Nelson County Virginia courthouse lawn has all the appearance of being only an idle gesture left there by some long-forgotten fanatics of some sort. Still it serves to remind at least this one non-native in the county that he is indeed in the state where the fiercest and most extended Civil War battles were fought, though not the state where the slaveowners of the South thought it was a good idea to bring on those deadly encounters. That honor by a long shot goes to South Carolina instead, where the capital of the Confederacy, and the battlefields, too, should've been put.

Most of these statues in Virginia were put up by women's groups, such as the Daughters of the Confederacy and the like. But that doesn't necessarily mean that women are more warlike. They're just more likely to remember fondly things like war in which they didn't have to do much marching and shooting and dying, and also they're more likely to mark the affairs and affrays in which their family members took part, however questionable those might've been.


Blogger LeftLeaningLady said...

Ok, I think I have to respectfully disagree with this last paragraph, especially about wars from Vietnam and before. Women, who had no voice, no rights and (except for WWII and 'nam) no vote, were more likely to remember those they lost. They had no way of knowing whether or not their relatives should have taken part, they were relegated to the drawing room when those discussion took place. All they knew was that their husbands, their fathers, their children were gone and they didn't want them to be forgotten.

Today we (meaning I) raise our sons to abhor the violence of war, the taking of another's life unless absolutely necessary for the protection of your own.

We've come a long way, baby, but we still have far to go.

11:22 AM  

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