By Peter Galuszka

On June 24, 2015, Nikki Haley, a Republican who was South Carolina’s first non-white governor, called for the removal of a Confederate flag that had been flying over the state’s capitol grounds for years.

“This flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state,” she said. Her action came a few days after an avowed white supremacist walked into an African-American church and opened fire, killing church members attending a service.

I was watching the news on TV when she made her gutsy move. I was deeply impressed.

And now, Ralph Northam, a Democrat who is governor of Virginia, has taken a similarly gutsy move. He has ordered that the state-owned statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee be removed from its stand on Monument Avenue in Richmond. It has been there for about 130 years, erected by white supremacists with deep sentiment for their romantic myths of Southern history.

“I believe in a Virginia that learns lessons from our past and we all know that our country needs that example right now,” Northam said.

In another show of guts, Northam refused the White House’s request that Virginia National Guard soldiers be sent to Washington, D.C., to buttress President Donald Trump’s calls for military shows of force against widespread rioting across the country after an unarmed and handcuffed African-American was killed by Minneapolis police.

The calls for the National Guard came after Trump ordered peaceful protestors removed forcibly by federal agents and soldiers so that he could walk through Lafayette Square next to the White House to use the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church for an utterly vulgar campaign stunt. Standing in front of the church, he was photographed holding an unopened Bible that had been carried in his daughter’s $1,000-plus handbag.

His calls for troops defied the Washington Metropolitan Police and brought fierce criticism from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Shortly afterwards, retired Marine Gen. and former Trump Secretary of Defense James Mattis made an extraordinarily sharp and unexpected rebuke of Trump and his campaign for using the military for his domestic political purposes. Mattis said that with Trump, the country has endured “three years without mature leadership.”

This is the extremely dangerous context in which Northam has taken his moves. No matter how much he is criticized by conservatives in the state, they can’t dismiss the point that he was a serving army doctor and understands very well that politicizing America’s military professionals is a very bad idea.

Liberals laud Northam because he has successfully brought progressive laws to the state including ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment and instituting badly needed gun controls.

Virginians have discussed for decades how to deal with Confederate memorials. The Old Dominion has more of them than any other state. Most originated with the Richmond-based United Daughters of the Confederacy that has peddled Southern mythology since it was formed in Nashville, Tenn. in the 19th century.

The memorial movement gained steam after Union occupation troops left the South after the Civil War and whites fought to take away post war political and economic gains that African-Americans had achieved.

In Richmond, Northam’s move is leading to others that will take down other statues of Confederate that effort is being led by Levar Stoney, the city’s young, African-American mayor.

In recent years such memorials have been used props for a variety of demonstrations by many sides. In 2015, the Lee statue in Richmond was the scene of anti-memorial protests as cameras whirred recording an international bicycle race, giving the issue global exposure.

As protestors protested and bicyclists zipped past, a small airplane flew in circles overhead towing a Confederate flag and a lettered statement that “Confederate Heros Matter.” I was covering the situation for a newspaper and noticed the misspelling of “Heroes.” Confederate flaggers later blamed the pilot for the mistake and put out a new, photo-shopped image on its digital outlets.

Moving a Lee statue was the reason and focus for a deadly protest in Charlottesville in 2017. The incident gave Virginia another global black eye.

In the last two weeks, Richmond’s monuments have been the focus of rioting, some of which involved looting and arson. They have also be the targets when city police tear-gassed peaceful protests.

Yes, the time has definitely come for the memorials to go from their current public places. I personally do not think they should be destroyed. They should be placed in appropriate spots accessible to the public with honest histories on signs nearby. We don’t need another months-long study by the Hunton & Williams law firm to explore the matter, as was done after the Charlottesville debacle.

Northam knows this and he’s right.

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33 responses to “Our Gutsy Governor”

  1. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Apparently the legal analysis is that the Governor has had the authority to do this from the day of his inauguration. Uh, what took so long?

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Oh, I’m quite sure he has “exceeded” his authority and the GA needs to reconvene to rein him in…….. he’s just gone rogue!

    2. Nancy_Naive Avatar

      Probably because the massive number of legal challenges that are, at this very moment, being crafted and filed.

      But, I must admit, I have never understood why a one-and-done elected official anywhere wouldn’t jump on the most controversial issues on day one.

      Has any candidate of the incumbent party ever really run on the record of the incumbent?

    3. MAdams Avatar

      It wasn’t politically expedient.

  2. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Good point

  3. sbostian Avatar

    I am all for honest history. However, it is very hard to find honest and complete history. Most of what we have is agenda focused and ideological in nature. I am sure that some here would be pleased to have a Howard Zinn acolyte write that “honest history”. I probably would characterize such a narrative as revisionist and ideological. Alas, the nature of history is that objective, full orbed accounts are hard to find or produce.

  4. Nancy_Naive Avatar

    Well, better latent than never

  5. Top-GUN Avatar

    There are supposedly 4 Confederate statues on Monument Ave…
    Lee, Jackson and Davis,,, Can you name the 4th one.
    Do you know what he did during the war? Can you describe the uniform he has on, or the horse that’s he’s riding???
    Do you know what this man is internationally famous for???
    Do you know how many accolades and awards he got not only from the United States but many foreign countries including a gift from the Czar of Russia and recognition from the Pope for his contributions to man kind..
    Do you know how he helped the skipper of the clipper ship Flying Cloud or what information he provided to Cyrus Field for the first transatlantic cable…
    PS,,, This is just a short list of his many accomplishments that benefitted man kind…
    Should his statue be removed???

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    Matthew Fontaine Maury – significant non-Confederate history and statues in the Fredericksburg area and Charlottesville and Goshen Pass on the Maury River.

    I do not think his statues in these other places will be removed especially where he is called “Pathfinder of the Seas” and the memorial was not put up by the Daughters of the Confederacy – associating him with the “lost cause”.

    I do not know who put his statue up on Monument Ave but if that statue is a memorial to his other work and not the Confederacy, and not put up by the Daughters of the Confederacy – I’d see that as going too far.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      a little follow-up – his statue was apparently NOT put up by the Daughters of the Confederacy but there is a purposeful association with the Confederacy.

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    I agree in part but “history” is never one account. One has to want to consider multiple sources if they really want more truth and accuracy.

    In the case of the statues – their “history” in terms of who put them up and when and for what purpose is documented in multiple accounts.

    Yet, many continue to assert that they are “history” and moving them is removing history and choose to ignore the actual history of those memorials.

    If people do that with the statues – then what are we to think about their willingness to address other history or for that matter current events?

    We now have conspiracy theories circulating that say that the George Floyd death was staged.

    This is what we are dealing with – what some folks want, CHOOSE to believe – regardless of history and realities.

    And yes, the GOP Chair in a Texas county has been spreading this – among others.

    We have a serious problem on race in this country. To deny it or claim that it’s a media-driven problem is just beyond the pale.

  8. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    As this commentary over the recent 24 hours continues at its frenetic present pace and tone, mirroring in chatter the rioters in the streets, while regaling itself again and again with its our virtue and certainty, as if madly trying to reinforce and convince itself over and over as so often in the past in its mindless chatter, the question arises, what is the mob afraid of?

    It must be something big.

    Why is it afraid to stop its mindless chatter and its parade before the guy who feeds it, Jim Bacon?

    Hint to the mob. Jim has stepped outside your little mob. You are performing for him.

    I hope Jim is observing and appraising this mob and learning ever more from it.

    And asking himself what these jittery folks are afraid of, and why they can’t stop talking?

  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    Time for another vote? 😉

  10. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    see what I mean. We got another quick four straight bursts. Chatter, chatter, chatter, chatter. He never leaves his screen. It’s his whole world, the little screen before him, chatter, chatter, chatter, chatter.

  11. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Reed. I am working for free. Please respect that. I am a professional and am used to getting paid as I have with other outlets for 46 years.

  12. djrippert Avatar

    There have always been two Virginias – plantation Virginia and the rest. Friction between the two goes back almost 200 years. In one major expression of that friction the good people of what is now West Virginia left the Commonwealth rather than be further subjected to plantation Virginia’s tyranny.

    Richmond is the emotional and cultural capital of plantation Virginia. It is not the emotional or cultural capital of non-plantation Virginia. As plantation Virginia (including Richmond) failed to prosper over the past 100 years its power and credibility have waned. The plantation elite used a variety of anti-democratic and often racist means to maintain control of the state. These means included, but were not limited to, Jim Crow, the Byrd Machine, Massive Resistance and the political structure imposed on the state by the 1971 state constitution. For the past 50 years these control mechanisms have been failing and plantation Virginia has steadily lost its death grip on the state. The removal of these statues is just another sign that the plantation elitists in Virginia are in terminal decline.

    Most Virginians could care less about Monument Avenue in Richmond. At the best the monuments represent an upper class white hierarchy that never accepted the surrender at Appomattox. At the worst they represent an ongoing tool of racism and intimidation unwanted by the majority of residents of modern day Richmond. However, in yet another display of anti-democratic plantation elitism, the elite used the legislature to forbid localities from making their own decisions about what to publicly display and what not to publicly display. That has now ended and, to nobody’s surprise, the monuments / statues are coming down.

    Ralph Northam’s decision to remove the Lee statue is only “gutsy” in the sense that it may irk members of the plantation elite into which he was born. The rest of Virginia either don’t give a rat’s ass about what happens in Richmond or applaud granting the people of the City of Richmond (or any locality for that matter) the right to manage their own affairs.

    Now, about our God awful state constitution that is the last tool of the waning power of the plantation elite …

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      yeah, I like your narrative… what about Cville and their statues and all that rot?

    2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      I am curious as to what elements of the current state constitution you regard as “the last tool of the…plantation elite”?

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        somewhere, way back when, DJ “saw the light” with respect to Virginia and ever since.. he does count the ways… 😉

  13. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Reed. Damned right I am scared. Trump is a dangerous man. I am afraid he’ll spark something awful like a civil war, a war with another country or some other bloody mess. That is why responsible adults like Marine Gen. Mattis and many others are speaking out. Why do
    You ignore this?

  14. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Give me a break. Northam did all of this because he was revealed wearing blackface as an adult ready to be licensed as physician. And remember, he denied it after he admitted it. It’s all virtue signaling. Why didn’t Northam call for removing these Confederate statues in his campaign? They were just as offensive to black people then? Why did it take a murder of a black man by cops working under Democratic Mayor Jacob Frey to get Northam to move? Virtue signaling.

    Despite being woke, Northam has not criticized Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a virtue-signaler virtuoso, who despite beating the crap out of the then incumbent mayor, Democrat Betsy Hodges, for failing to clean up the Minneapolis police department by getting rid of violent, rule-violating and racist cops, did the very same thing.

    (Riddle me this. Isn’t it a principle of feminism that women should not be held to a stricter standard then men? Makes sense to me. Yet, that’s exactly what Frey did to Hodges. Yet, silence from women’s groups. Why, because Frey is signaling his virtue and he’s a Democrat. Just like the media & feminists stayed a away from rape allegations against Bill Clinton and are downplaying molestation allegations against Joe Biden, they are staying away from Frey’s sexist treatment of Hodges.) If Northam stands for women, shouldn’t he call out clear sexism?

    We need to find a GOP official in Minnesota to blame for this. How about Mayor P. Kenneth Peterson, who was in office until 1961? Or better yet, GOP Governor Tim Pawlenty, who was in office from 2003 to 2011? I shouldn’t worry. There’s likely a team of 20 reporters at the Post working on this right now.

    Now we learn that under the Frey administration, Officer Chauvin was a training officer for the two newest officers.

    I’d never make it as a journalist. I try to find the facts.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      you’ll have to explain “woke”… what does that mean?

      also – if the idea is that we fire the folks who are in charge of others who do wrong… how far up the food-chain would you go?

      Should orangeman be fired because some lunatic got loose on a Pensacola Naval Base? Was it his fault that lives were lost over incompetents who should have never let it happen?

    2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Your points about Frey may be valid. I know nothing about him. After he took office, did he bring in a new police chief or leave the previous one in that position? A mayor cannot be blamed for every bad apple in a police department, but, if he did not bring in new leadership after campaigning on cleaning up the police, then he is to blame.

      1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

        Dick – it’s worse. Because Frey brought in a new police chief. But he didn’t clean out bad cops. Frey has been in office since 2018 busily signaling his virtue. He stands proud of getting rid of single family zoning and doing justice-based climate change work. But that didn’t keep George Frey alive. Getting rid of Derek Chauvin would have.

        I’m not arguing that a mayor or anyone else can be perfect. But if you beat up your election opponent on failing to fix the police department, shouldn’t you follow through? I bet everyone posting here would have asked the police chief to identify problem officers.

        I admit I’m emotionally involved in this one. I grew up across the River in St. Paul. I went to Mpls daily for three years during law school. Cops aren’t supposed to kneel on a man’s neck for more than 8 minutes where I grew up. And elected officials are expected to do what they promise in Minnesota. And I remember when the Media and other politicians would raise hell about a local official who failed the entire community. I remember reading about the Twin Cities journalists who took on the corrupt mayors and police that made bargains with criminals like Dillinger. Now all one needs to do is signal virtue. I’m not there. And I hope I never do. I’d would have admired Northam if he’d not retracted his admission and said I need to make up for what I did. I need to that as a man personally. Why didn’t he run on removing the Confederate statues?

        If this murder had happened

  15. SGillispie Avatar

    Our Gutsy Governor has taken the brave step of pandering and caviling to his far-left base who clearly control him and the General Assembly. Let’s especially salute him given the reelection risk he is taking. What a man!

    Such courage in these hard times. He may even get a nod of appreciation from Xing, now publicly aligned with the MSM and many Democrats in undermining Trump and us, for his courageous efforts to expunge all things not approved by our Democrat culture-enforcers. But there are still libraries which have to be cleansed and a lot of history still to be rewritten a la the NYT; so perhaps that is still a ways off.

    And in true Galuszka logic, he can begin expunging everything demonstrators are able to create incidents about, especially if they can get them on international TV.

    1. John Harvie Avatar
      John Harvie

      VA Gov can’t be reelected without a term interval.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        correct…so what is all of this “stuff” really about? Making it easy for Terry McAuliffe to do a second term? 😉

  16. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Sgillispie. Xing? You mean Xi Jinping, the head of the Chinese Communist Party?. You know if you don’t know what you are talking about, it might be better not to comment. It tends to make you look like a fool.

  17. SGillispie Avatar

    Ah, yes. Xi Jinping, the head of the Communist Party. Exactly what I meant.

    Thank you for your lightening-fast correction. I”m sure your admirers will appreciate your smug advice. But they already know all who disagree with you and point out your biased and inaccurate writing are fools. Those who are not your admirers who read your posts will already know that you are not one to admonish anyone on “knowing what you are talking about.”

  18. Bill O'Keefe Avatar
    Bill O’Keefe

    The author should get his facts correct. The statue of Lee was not erected by white supremacists. The idea came from a ladies organization at Hollywood Cemetery the year of Lee’s death. A reading of the history and the unfinished base makes clear that it had little to do with the Lost Cause fiction. Northam was gutless; not gutsy. He is still atoning for his black face goof.

  19. LarrytheG Avatar

    “In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, Ladies Memorial Associations (LMA’s) formed throughout the South to remedy a practical problem—across the South, and, indeed, on battlefields dotting the whole United States, the bodies of Confederate soldiers were poorly buried, often in shallow graves, where erosion, animals, and farmers’ plows could unearth their remains. While Congress had initiated reinterment campaigns and established national cemeteries to catalogue and provide a final resting place for Union soldiers’ remains, War Department burial efforts deliberately ignored the Confederate dead. This neglect and the desire to honor and properly bury their dead was the initial impetus for LMAs. Mostly composed of elite white southern women, LMA’s acted as a surrogate for the dismantled Confederate. Ladies Memorial Associations also focused on the memorialization of Confederate dead and helped to preserve Confederate nationalism and laid the foundations for the Lost Cause. Commemoration efforts were expressed in two main ways, the erection of monuments and the celebration of Memorial (or Decoration) days. LMA’s led the movement to build monuments to the Confederate dead and were among the first organizations to erect these monuments. Ladies’ Memorial Associations also used Memorial and Decoration days to inculcate respect for the Confederate dead and the Lost Cause in southern children. The Ladies’ monument building efforts proved to be the theater for a struggle between men and women for control of Confederate nationalism. In the end the Ladies (as they called themselves) prevailed. Preserving Confederate nationalism remained, to a large extent, the role of women, from the LMAs of the 1860s and 1870s to the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the 1890s and beyond. Ladies’ Memorial Associations, created from women’s grief over the loss of their husbands, sons, brothers, and fathers, and the end of the Confederacy, became one of the most important groups in the campaign to honor the Confederate dead and celebrate the Lost Cause. Through Confederate cemeteries, Memorial and Decoration Days, and monuments, LMAs kept the Confederate tradition alive.”

  20. Bill O'Keefe Avatar
    Bill O’Keefe

    According to the history of the Lee Monument, “The base is unfinished from its original design which included allegorical groups on the south and north. The front would have included a figure of Liberty with a confederate soldier at her feet as she leaned on her spear and placed her laurel wreath on his head. The rear group would have depicted the Angel of Peace taking weapons from the Goddess of War.” This seems to clearly counter the notion that the statue was a Lost Cause gesture.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      excerpts – complete account at the provided link, the “Lost Cause” is mentioned several times as part of the LMAs primary goals:

      “The Civil War and Reconstruction gave elite white women in the South new opportunities to expand their public roles. Ladies’ Memorial Associations (LMAs) throughout the South—in all the states of the Confederacy —organized women not only to commemorate the Confederate dead, erect monuments,

      and celebrate the Lost Cause,

      Between seventy and a hundred LMAs were founded, “almost everywhere there were concentrations of Confederate bodies,” from Richmond, Marietta, Georgia, and Petersburg to Nashville, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga.[1] As Caroline Janney observes in her study of LMAs

      in Virginia, at least twenty-six memorial associations were founded in Virginia by 1868,

      and Richmond alone possessed three LMAs—the Hollywood Memorial Association, the Ladies Memorial Association for the Confederate Dead of Oakwood, and the Hebrew Ladies Memorial Association (for fallen Jewish Confederates).[2]
      The Ladies, as members of the LMAs referred to themselves, had two main aims: to care for the bodies of Confederate soldiers, through disinterment and reburial efforts, and to honor the Confederate Dead, and, by association, commemorate the Lost Cause,”

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