Do those confederate monuments and flags matter? Yes, they do. The reactions to these monuments from both sides of this issue shows that they are about much more than history or culture.
Imagining several different monuments may clarify why they matter. First, imagine the monument at Pearl Harbor dedicated to those who died when it was attacked on December 7, 1941. Second, imagine the monument where the World Trade Center stood before it was destroyed on September 11, 2001. Both monuments stand as a memory to those who died violently in an unprovoked attack. They remind us of what we are trying to prevent, and if we must fight, what we are fighting against. Both monuments are about values.
Now imagine two contrasting monuments. The first is a memorial to those humans forced into slavery and forced to live not their own lives but for the lives and benefit of others. Now consider a second memorial dedicated to a solder, general, or president of the Confederacy, all of whom were dedicated to preventing the freedoms of those same slaves. Both monuments reflect a value, not history.
Monuments are not concerned with history, they are built to project values.
In 2003 Congress proposed a National Slave Memorial. The proposal did not pass; instead, Congress created the National Museum of African American History and Culture which opened in 2016. It is revealing that congress declined to create a monument, which would have expressed a value, but created a museum, which is mostly about history. It is possible for a museum such as this one to take some of the value of a memorial, but primarily museums are about history.
If you care about history and want to preserve history (which is important), then a museum works,. But if you care about values, and want to make a statement about values (also important), you need to build a memorial.
What values are we embracing when we have so many Confederate monuments but so few monuments to those who perished and suffer from Confederate sins?
In an imperfect world, full of imperfect leaders, there are countless statues that may not live up to our American values. Markwayne Mullin