Could there be a more apt allegory for America’s damaged psyche than a dark-as-the-thick-of-night, hundred-mile-wide shadow that will literally slice the nation in half today at midday?
The breathtaking (and scream-inducing) path of totality carved by today’s eclipse will stretch from coast-to-coast spreading (or reflecting?) our umbra at 1,800 miles per hour.
(Read Annie Dillard’s classic 1982 essay “Total Eclipse” where she recounts the transcendental experience of viewing the 1979 total solar eclipse in Washington State.)
On Saturday, just a week after torch-bearing white supremacists and Nazis marched in Charlottesville, killing a young woman and garnering the approval of the President of the United States of America (who noted that many of the racist activists were “fine people”), the Houston chapter of Black Lives Matter held a rally calling for the dismantling of “the Spirit of the Confederacy” sculpture in Sam Houston Park in the city’s downtown.
That’s the monument, above, photographed early Sunday morning.
My wife Tracie and I have attended Black Lives Matter rallies here in Houston in the past. We even took our children to one of the marches.
But in the wake of the violence in Virginia, we decided it was too dangerous to attend Saturday’s gathering. Luckily, no one was hurt. According to a report by my colleague Meagan Flynn at the Houston Press, only a handful of Confederate-flag-bearing counter protesters were on hand.
The Spirit of the Confederacy monument by Italian sculptor Luigi Amateis (aka Louis Amateis, an immigrant to the U.S.) was erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the first decade of the last century, when Jim Crow was the law of the land in Southeast Texas.
Like countless similar memorials erected between 1895 and World War I to “serve as testimony to the Daughters’ aggressive agenda to vindicate the Confederacy,” the installation in Houston was “part of a campaign to paint the Southern cause in the Civil War as just and slavery as a benevolent institution,” wrote University of North Carolina history professor Karen Cox last week (Washington Post).
“And their installation came against a backdrop of Jim Crow violence and oppression of African Americans. The monuments were put up as explicit symbols of white supremacy.”
After Trump was elected to the office of the President of the United States of America, I published a post about the work-in-progress Sons of the Confederate Veterans Memorial of the Wind in Orange, Texas, about two hours east of Houston, where my wife grew up on the Louisiana border.
Yes, in Orange, they’re not talking about tearing down Confederate memorials. They are building a new one.
After I posted about the monument in November of last year, here’s what one Orange resident wrote me, a white retiree named Iva (who still hasn’t accepted my Facebook friend request):
- I read your article on the Confederate memorial in Orange Texas. You being from southern California seem a little over concerned about our heritage here in Texas. I’ve visited the La Jolla S.D. Carlsbad areas and I don’t understand you any better than you understand us. Now I could visit California and I could find much more news worthy items to write about. But I don’t. You see being a Cherokee, German, Hungarian kike, I’ve had to grow up a little thick skinned so the ignorant people out there didn’t destroy me. I’m waiting on the time people like you get involved in real issues that are dangerous. Sanctuary cities, poor people that can’t eat or get medical attention at the same time, inner city struggles, homeless PTSD vets etc. AND, it’s okay to burn, stomp on the flag that , as bad as it seems at times, still represents the greatest nation going and you’re bothered about a memorial very few notice until some fool makes an issue of it. Don’t you think you could do better for 15 minutes of fame? You’re to good of a writer to waste your talents on something this trivial!
Iva, it may seem trivial to you but it sure doesn’t make a Jewish son-in-law of Orange feel very welcome there. But thanks for your message: you had me at “kike.”
When are people like you going to understand that monuments like the Memorial of the [Breaking] Wind scream out to people like me? Stay away! they clamor, especially when seen from the Interstate 10 exit just a few miles from my in-laws’ house.
The Spirit of the Confederacy should be moved to a museum where it belongs. And the people of Orange should be ashamed of themselves for allowing such racist symbols to be newly erected and so proudly displayed in their community.
The 1908 spirit of the confederacy monument is in a museum park, that is what Sam Houston Park is, “a park dedicated to Houston’s past”. Besides the sculptor is famous for his bronze doors at the US Capitol. Stop destroying American sculpture, leave it alone.