Living in a Southern State with some very liberal cities I hear a lot about the "Monument Debate". Although I'm not the type to fly a Rebel flag myself, and I believe the flag is ultimately a racist symbol, I can also appreciate the monuments in many ways. They add beauty to a city, showcase art, and educate people about our history.
Where I dislike them is where they only acknowledge the Confederate side and celebrate it without acknowledging the deep racism of the Confederacy. I care about historical accuracy and I think it is important for our people to know about it. That means an accurate and full story of our history, including honoring those who fought for the Union from Southern states, and the deep problems of Confederate ideology.
So where do I stand on the Monument Debate? I would personally like to see them stay, but they should be added to or expanded to give the full story of the war. This could mean adding another statue, in the case of a memorial it could mean adding the names of Union soldiers from that locality to the list of those who died, or it could mean simply adding a plaque contextualizing the monuments.
But what I really want to propose here is an idea of how to save the monuments. Right now Conservatives are trying to just change nothing, and eventually liberals who want to remove the monuments are gaining power. You can't win a fight if you are constantly on the defensive. Even if you win nine times out of ten, some of those monuments are coming down. More will come down the next time. Something needs to change. I believe the best way to handle this situation, for many reasons, is to privatize the monuments.
Privatizing them might mean moving them, or it may not, depending on the circumstance. I can certainly see the argument that the pro-Confederate monuments belong in a museum. As long as people can still go see them that solution is fine with me. However, I think it is more realistic to sell the monuments off to private groups that promise to maintain them. I am sure that many private individuals/groups would step up to accept the task.
This would not only preserve the monuments, it would also save taxpayers money on the maintenance costs. I think these changes would allow our country to largely move beyond this debate - which distracts us from so many issues that are actually important. It's embarrassing to me to see people on the left spending significant time and energy on these monuments. I know people where these monument fight is the main thing they seem to do. If you are a true progressive I think that focusing on income inequality, lack of opportunity for certain groups of people, saving the environment, ending needless wars, etc. is a much better use of time.
People might complain about Confederate flags on private property or on someone's pickup truck, but nobody really seems to spend much time worrying about it. I would love to just privatize these monuments and see this whole debate go away.
Memorial to the Confederate dead at Arlington National Cemetery: