I am writing in regard to our Confederate memorial. I am not an activist, nor do I hold any political clout. I am only a high school graduate and pipe fitter, but I am concerned about the issue.
First and foremost, I am a proud American citizen who served honorably in our U.S. Navy for eight years. I love our country so much that I cannot express the love I feel with words.
On the other side of the coin, I could say the exact same thing for our beloved state and its geographical location, the South. My heart swells with pride when I think of our home. The beautiful foliage of our Smoky Mountains when the leaves begin to change, or spending summer days in a canoe on the Duck, Red, or Stones River or watching the tobacco grow and then enjoying the smell as it is fired in one of our Middle Tennessee barns. I could go on and on.
Tennessee is a special place made up of special people, and that is nothing new. More than 150 years ago, our state and our country engaged in a war that would last four years and claim more than 600,000 American lives, more than all our wars combined.
Many, many battles were fought here on our homeland. Many, many of our fellow Tennesseans died fighting to drive an invading army out of our state, and the vast majority of those men – basically boys – never owned a slave. In fact, less than 15 percent of the entire Confederate Army owned a slave. Our great-great-grandfathers, uncles and cousins were not fighting the bloodiest and most costly war in our history to preserve slavery for a select few, any more than the boys from up North were fighting to end it.
The Federals were fighting to preserve their union, and Johnny Rebel was fighting to repel the invader. There were many, many causes of our war between the states. Slavery was a factor in the Southern states’ secession, but it was not the reason the majority of our fellow Tennesseans went off to war wearing gray. They went, and they fought, and so many died to protect what we hold so dear to our heart, our home.
The majority of Confederate memorials here in Tennessee are not of big-shot generals or politicians. They are of average everyday farmers, shopkeepers, masons and barbers. They are memorials to our family members and fellow Tennesseans. People from the western United States do not understand. People from the northern United States do not understand. Even though it breaks my Southern heart to say so, it would appear there are a few of my fellow Tennesseans who do not understand, either.
These white supremacists and Klansmen are not only painting our ancestors who died for Tennessee in a horrible light, but they are also doing the same disservice to anyone who respects, reveres and memorializes our history and our family members from days past. All we can do is continue to try and show people from outside of Tennessee, and the South in general, that white supremacy, bigotry and hate is not what these memorials represent.
The answer cannot be to destroy, deface and erase the sacrifices so many Tennesseans made. Thank you for your time.