14 July 2020

[MB McCart] - Thoughts on the Covington Square Confederate Memorial

Well, TPC was supposed to be on break for vacation, but you know how that goes...

So, the Newton Co. BOC will be taking up the Confederate Memorial issue this evening at 6pm at a special called meeting. Word on the street is that there are 3 votes on the board to vote to remove the memorial (Henderson, Mason & Shulz). 

As was reported by several in the past few days, the county has also gotten a bid for removal at a cost of $40,000.

I was just informed today by a reliable, direct source that if voted on, the county would proceed to act "as soon as possible" to go ahead & remove the memorial.

Purportedly, according to some, there have been communications from certain pieces & groups that if the memorial isn't removed as quickly as possible, then there will be issues & possible problems from these people relating to the memorial, the Covington Square, the City of Covington & Newton Co. in general.

I just want to stop right there: threats of intimidation of the initiation of force by anyone should NEVER be criteria for any decision made by any governmental entity.


So with that out of the way, let's talk a few particulars.

First off, there is the state law. While a few cities & counties have disregarded that in these decisions, several have not, and have specifically referenced the state law. The law is the law, right? Honestly, as I've mentioned before recently, the silence & lack of action of the state with regards to the places who have removed these memorials seems to speak volumes. Certainly, this seems to be a bit of a political hot potato that some out there would probably just prefer to go away.

But it's not going to go away. It's never going to go away...

Here are some thoughts I shared back in 2017, the last time things really flared up with this situation: 

As I've mentioned before, I'm basically a 6th generation Newtonian (my Great Grandfather married a Broughton girl, so we were in Morgan Co. for one of those generations). My Great-Great Grandfather, William Marion McCart Sr., served in the Confederacy as a volunteer in the GA E 53. He answered the call of his state, and, by all accounts, fought valiantly for the "lost cause." He did not, nor did any other member of my family as far as I've been able to discern, ever own a slave. They were poor folk. Dirt farmers, sharecroppers & carpenters.

In 1906 the Daughters of the Confederacy erected a statue in the center of the Covington Square to memorialize those sons of Newton Co. who answered the call of their state, the governing authority at the time, and specifically those who gave their lives. Unlike some memorials throughout the south, this monument was not placed during the 1950s or 60s as a show of defiance against integration or civil rights. That, in my opinion, is an extremely important distinction.

I've oftentimes thought about the discussions of that group of ladies over a century ago. Many of those women, the older ones, probably had a direct connection to that awful chapter of our country's history. One would presume that at least a few of them lost their Fathers during that conflict. Almost all of them heard about it from family members who witnessed it firsthand. That monument is a memorial to those who served in that conflict. That , I believe, should be a vital consideration...
...I'm of the opinion that the monument should stay. For one thing, it's a beautiful statue. It really is. And the words inscribed on it are also beautiful, and very apropos, in my opinion. On the north side, it talks about the need to furl the flag. How the time had come to move on. But there's also a mention of the "sacred cause" on the east side of the monument that some people have taken issue with. And...I get it. I do.

But for some, just the fact that it's a monument related to the Confederacy, regardless of intent or purpose, it simply needs to go. But I don't agree with that.
As the famous quote goes - "those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it." This monument is a part of our history. Of course, some would say that history like this needs to be in a museum, or possibly in a cemetery.
I disagree. 
Again, I feel as if it is a key part of our history. But more than that, I think it should stay because it can always be a reminder to all that the Civil War did indeed happen. That brother did fight against brother. A reminder that a critical mass of people at one time gave up on the principles that our country was founded on. In addition to remembering those Newton Citizens who gave their lives and those who fought in the War Between the States, this memorial can, and should, always be a remembrance that we have to keep talking. That we always need to always remain civil. And in this day and age, I think that needs to be in the forefront and should very much be in the public forum. 

Moreover, I think this monument can also be a reminder that we are, as our Founding Fathers declared in the Constitution, always striving for that More Perfect Union, but that there have been bumps along the way. That we are, as America, who we are, and that we have a shared and intertwined history. That this beautiful and wondrous idea of Freedom and Liberty, though having come from imperfect origins, has always been striven for and expounded upon by many throughout the years, and that this light needs to always be shone and remembered. And that the South - our beloved homeplace  - was, in instances then & over the years since, sometimes on the wrong side of Justice, and history. 

This is not a monument to a specific war hero, nor is it a celebration of the CSA itself. It is a memorial to American veterans, and a reminder of who we are and where we've been. 

It should never be forgotten. It should always be remembered. 

That is history. 

The monument should stay.

So, again, that was from three years ago & I still pretty much feel that way.

I have recently, however, spoken with a few folks of color on the topic. They've all pretty much said that they feel it is inappropriate for the town square. I've also spoken to some white folks who feel the same, that it should be moved to the Confederate section of the Old Covington Cemetery.  I can feel where they're coming from, though. I really can. But the city has said that they don't want it. 

I've spoken with many who do not want to see it moved & feel passionately that it should remain exactly where it is.

It's a tough situation. No easy answers.

As has been researched extensively, during the time period between 1890 - 1915 (coinciding with the 25th & 50th anniversaries of the end of the war). hundreds of these monuments & memorials were erected all over the southeast as well as hundreds more memorializing the Union all over the northeast & the rest of the country (there are also some Confederate memorials in the northeast as well).

In fact, there exists an almost identical statue found in Lewis Co., New York, as the one we have in Covington, GA but instead of Johnny Reb at the top, it's Billy Yank & the verbiage around the base is different.

What concerns me is this:

What's next? Are we going to start removing those Union memorials? And hey, why stop there? Let's go ahead & start taking down statues of Frederick Douglas & Abraham Lincoln while were at it (oh yeah, too late...).

As long as we're not talking about specific, workable ideas that can actually fix things (how's the mandatory body cam thing coming? Those citizen review boards up & running yet), right?

I think the BOC should definitely talk about it tonight, and hope there are citizens' comments on both sides of the topic. I think they should seriously & deliberately discuss this topic. And then maybe set up that Private/Public Commission. Half black folks, half white. And let's figure something out that works.

But the last thing the BOC needs to do is make an unnecessary knee-jerk reaction that cause more divisiveness in the home county.

- Marshall "MB" McCart