Opinion: Daily Journal

In the wake of Silent Sam

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I studied history at a college with a Confederate soldier monument during the biggest progressive social upheaval since the 1960’s. I know just about every single way that old boy can be interpreted.

What those idealistic college kids and older antagonizers recently did in Chapel Hill will not fix racism, redeem the school of historical wrongs, or even do much to erase history. It was immature and will ultimately be a failure.

The history Silent Sam represents is flawed, but it belongs to all of us and is important. Knocking him down did not make you a better person or end the problems you perceive.

Why? Hundreds will rise in his place, and they’ll be flesh and blood, and loud. Not silent.

It seems like racial, religious, economic, and lifestyle politics are pulling our country apart. This hectic episode will further alienate the liberal University of North Carolina student body and faculty from the conservative state government and its residents when unity is needed most.

If the privileged protesters think they hold a received enlightenment that all of the honkeys with battle flag memorabilia don’t, then they failed to consider the sensitivity of the oppressed party. It is also ironic that some wore masks to disguise themselves, violating a law once aimed at the KKK. I hope the John Brown banner-wavers were being dumb, and didn’t commit vandalism to edge us toward another Unpleasantness.

Our state will now enter into battle over where to store Carr’s veteran and his friends from Union Square in Raleigh. If things turn out like I expect and the Confederate monuments end up at Bentonville Battleground or an indoor museum, we will be left with little physical disruption and a lot of social damage.

I am a descendant of Confederate soldiers and I am often thankful that William P. Rierson had children before marching off to war. He and another grandfather never came home, and still lie in unmarked Virginia graves. Thinking about that actually pains me, and as a history lover I will always be devoted to preserving their memory.

William P. Rierson served under Col. James T. Morehead, an UNC alumnus from a family of  generous university benefactors. Silent Sam is far from the only local symbol of the Confederate past, as rebel generals, congressmen, and sympathizers are memorialized across the ghostly grounds. Attending the school of slaveholding Confederate leaders as a descendent of their poorer followers, called Tar Heels, was a reflective experience.

Going to UNC during the Silent Sam trouble was in fact enlightening for this Southerner. It was critically important that I live among progressives for four years to truly understand both sides of Civil War commemoration. I cannot perfectly empathize with people of color who felt oppressed by Silent Sam’s presence on campus, but it is only right that I try to understand.

My wish as I watch the aftermath of Silent Sam’s toppling is that all sides of this controversy can learn to think and feel from a different perspective. Respect must be given to defenders of Confederate heritage, those who felt like second-class citizens under those watchful bronze eyes, and everyone in between.

Today’s Tar Heels need to consciously build understanding with one another for civilized community to survive this event, as it cuts to the core of a racial and historical identity divide. Unfortunately, I doubt many good feelings can remain between an emboldened progressive bubble and an enraged army of heritage defenders.

If this symbolic fight becomes more violent, even the vandals may come to regret it.

Will Rierson graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2018 with a degree from the media and journalism school.

  • ProudlyUnaffiliated

    See my comment on the other CJ article written today about Silent Sam. You may find it yet more illuminating. Thanks for writing!

  • frosty888

    This is not a “fruitless” act. It is one more act of distruction not of a statue but of history and the right of spoiled “entitled” vandals to make history fit their wish for it to be as they wish not as it is. Not to sound alarmist, but I see it as another attack on American society. The National Socialist German Workers Party would have been proud of their, and others, actions.

    • Junius Daniel

      Dear Frosty – the analogy to The National Socialist Party of Germany does not quite work, because they never would have allowed a monument to the majority Native White population to be taken down.

      No, Sir – a better analogy would be to Judeo-Bolshevist Soviet Russia or Maoist China.

      • frosty888

        True, since they are against any ideology other than their own. But there is more ready (at least negative,I suppose there may be some positive somewhere) information on the NSDAP than there is on communist regimes. (perhaps at least on campi)

        • Junius Daniel

          Thank you for your thoughtful replies, Dear Frosty. All the best to you and yours!

  • Junius Daniel

    ‘The history Silent Sam represents is flawed,’

    Like the rest of us, Sir, you’ve been trained in a Yankee dominated NC school system, and so it is only natural that you would feel that way.

    Everything to them is about the evils of Southern Slavery. Yet, I note that The New England Yankee United States’ System has no problem having slaves, so long as the tens of millions it keeps in 3rd World Sweat-Shoppes are kept out of view.

    Oh, yes, but wait – what about all these millions of Latin Slaves with which they flood our state?

    Well, let me make a correction – Confederate slavery was evil, but Modern Yankee United States’ slavery is not – whether it is in view or not!

    As to your feeling that the Capital Monuments are on their way out to Bentonville, I hope you know such a thing would be the surest thing to turn the South’s most peaceable state into the very antithesis.

    On the other hand, you are very right about the vandals, but, perhaps not in the sense of violence. No, Sir, , what they will eventually regret is demonstrating to many fence-sitting Tarheels that the fence ain’t no more a good place, and they will move to the Right – the Hard Right, as such things go.

  • Junius Daniel

    ‘It seems like racial, religious, economic, and lifestyle politics are pulling our country apart’

    That’s just it, Sir – it’s not ‘ our country’ – not if you are a North Carolinian.

    No, Sirree – we’ve been targetted by the New England Yankee United States’ Government all my life – first we had our social order overturned, 2nd it was The Good Lord thrown out of schools, after that it was our ban on infanticide, while all along our industry was moved out by hook and crook.

    Then, it was the abomination of ‘gay marriage’.

    Meanwhile, nearly half the state was neither born nor raised, as a child, here – so they are waging a not so stealth war to replace us.

    And, oh, yes – the government spies on all of us, censors free speech, wages Unconstitutional covert and overt wars against myriad countries in perpetuity, enforces discrimination against Whites , and, to boot, we’ve been informed that we are on the line for $23,000,000,000,000 in debt – and climbing!

    I could go on, but, No, Sir – it is NOT ‘our country’, but, yes, you are right – it is being pulled apart because, in fact, we are not one nation, never have been.

    No, Sir – we are at least several countries, kept in line by heavy mental conditioning that existed before The Internet, the general passivity and cowardice of the heavily drugged populace, and, when all else fails, the threat of armed force.

  • Junius Daniel

    Thank you, Sir, for your article.

    I appreciated you blending of intimate candour and historical fact.

  • Dan Patterson

    For better or worse we are not the men of the 1800s, and though we do not possess their experiences our lives are influenced by them and theirs in turn by the previous generations. And for better or worse to deny or ignore history is to repeat it, and that seems to be the direction the current, loud, entitled, bitter generation has taken. Viewed without the benefit of context the statue might represent Cracker slave-holders bent on subjugation and oppression and there is no doubt that is part of the history of what became the Confederation of Southern States. But it is only a part; the complete picture is a complex subject best left for a different and very detailed discussion. But the complete picture is the point and one missed by a wide margin by the so-very-impressed-with-themselves fools stomping around the UNC campus.
    Other very important factors, social, political, and economic were in play during the 1800s and the people of the early 1900s who meant to pay tribute to “…the sons of the University…in answer to the call of their country…” understood that and for generations after it was recognized. Was. Until the bleating of a mob obscured that concept and replaced it with “Look at ME and how I am suffused with VIRTUE”. Sure little one. Sure you are.
    The article nicely summarizes our current plight regarding the ignorant, a plight with which we are all now stuck. Notably there was tacit approval for vandalism and violence shown by law enforcement, possibly to avoid a mass arrest and to mute the guaranteed screeching from the likes of Shepard Smith et al but that restraint only serves to make things much worse — totalitarian demands from the ill-formed minds of people who are old enough to know better are not the foundations of a healthy society.
    The author’s points are well-taken. One subtlety stated and vital morsel is “I hope the John Brown banner-wavers were being dumb, and didn’t commit vandalism to edge us toward another Unpleasantness.”. Well, yes, I hope so too. But I know better; that violent over-turning is precisely what is being sought.
    I will offer a stronger caution to the “privileged protesters”: Careful poking that wolf with your stick. It’s a short stick.