Posts Tagged Robert E. Lee

A Trip to ArabRat’s Grave

The Arafat Memorial

Harvard Students on Pilgrimage to the Arafat Memorial

The Forward ran a disappointing editorial today arguing that the Harvard visit to Arafat’s grave was “the right thing to do”.

Among other things, it said:

“Imagine going on an educational tour of Berlin and not stopping at Hitler’s bunker.”

First of all, the Arafat grave is dolled up as a hero’s monument in a Palestinian government building.  Unlike Hitler’s Bunker, it is indeed constructed as a form of homage.

If you visit the Lincoln Memorial and then share your proud, smiling picture on Facebook, your visit will be construed as a form of homage whether you like it or not, because that’s why the Lincoln Memorial exists. So too with Arafat’s current grave site.

Why else would the Israeli Government have destroyed Baruch Goldstein’s grave site?  It featured glorious, stone, circular hand-washing stations like those in front of the Western Wall, and a miniature plaza all to itself.  Arafat’s grave is presented even better.

Second, for the record, I was on tour in Berlin in 1974 and 2011, and it never even crossed my mind that Hitler’s Bunker was there or worth seeing.  In 1974, it was Checkpoint Charlie, The Wall, AlexanderPlatz, Brandenburg Gate, museums, day-trips to castles, etc.   In 2011, it was local synagogues, “stumble-stones”, Jewish concerts, the Jewish Museum, the zoo (for my kids), the book-burning memorial beneath AlexanderPlatz, and the “space needle” towering above it.

As the Harvard students’ own justifications make clear, their choice to go there actually reflects their politics; and their politics are what we take issue with.

The Forward article continued:

Or trying to see the sites of a conflict like the American Civil War without taking a look at the Confederate Memorial Carving of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.  Hitler killed 6 million Jews and 5 million others, but no one would argue that your visit to his bunker was meant to “honor” him.   Davis, Lee and Jackson were considered war criminals in the North in their time, but no one is going to argue that you’re embracing their side of the Civil War at their monument.

First of all, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson weren’t thought of as war criminals, they were thought of as traitors.  (On the other hand, Southern bushwhackers like Jesse James were indeed terrorists and war criminals).

Second, as a tourist I’d have no interest in the statue cited — a statue which is not intrinsically of any historical significance.  It’s just a souvenir.  On the other hand, the fact that Southerners haven’t yet torn it down themselves is what’s historically significant.  (Yes, they are embracing their side of the Civil War by maintaining it.)

Having visited, and been disgusted by, The Hermitage — with it’s whitewashing of slavery (via the relocation of the slave quarters) and the unsavory Jackson in particular — and by other monuments throughout the South (which is still not entirely Reconstructed, you know), it seems to me that someone visiting the South reveals his or her values by the tourist sites chosen.

Visitors can choose educational sites about black history and civil war battles, or they can take their selfies at statues that pay homage to racists who fought for an evil cause.  At best (e.g., Robert E. Lee) they are tragic figures, and at worst (e.g., Nathan Bedford Forrest) they were monsters.

The Forward article concludes:

, , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments