To the Editor:
The City Council’s proposal to remove a statue memorializing our city’s common soldiers who died to protect their state, homes and loved ones from invaders should be unthinkable. And erase all Confederate street names? Must we be defined by such misguided and ignominious acts? George Washington’s, George Mason’s and Robert E. Lee’s hometown must set a better example — not destroy our American heritage.
Here are some suggestions for council to express our feelings after the brutal murder of nine innocent people in Charleston, S.C. by a clearly mentally disturbed young man.
Pass a resolution decrying this heinous act and expressing our deepest sympathies to the families of those senselessly killed. Send each family a copy. This should have been done immediately.
Establish a committee of people knowledgeable about Confederate history to create a city-supported museum to present and preserve our 19th century heritage, especially the antebellum, War, Reconstruction and post- Reconstruction periods. Remarks at the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Confederate Memorials and Street Names at the March 28 public hearing revealed we have many citizens unfamiliar with that perspective and/or have mistaken but firm misunderstandings. The resulting sharp bitterness among our citizens must be addressed constructively. For 50 years Fort Ward has presented frequent programs about the Union side, but there has not been an equal city-backed effort for the Confederate side although Alexandrians were Confederate-leaning despite occupation. ...
Many speakers who claimed to love and know history admitted not knowing why our streets were named for Confederate officers and wanted the names changed. Wanda Dowell’s Feb. 8 testimony and Gazette letter noted that for the War’s Centennial, the city spent $500,000 for Union Fort Ward and has funded its expenses since. Council named new West End streets for Confederate officers. Because street signs were needed, the city incurred no extra expense for the Confederate remembrance. For this “balanced” approach, Alexandria received rare honors: its first All-America city award and a Congressional resolution.
If council changes the streets’ names, including Jefferson Davis Highway, hundreds of citizens and businesses will incur extra expenses and inconveniences — and memorable irritation. Also, council will have to return our All-America City Award.
A city in debt and facing large necessary expenses should not spend money unnecessarily. Those favoring these unnecessary proposed changes must bear all their expenses and make the necessary adjustments so those affected experience the least trouble and disruption. That also includes taking care of “Appomattox,” a priceless antique art treasure. If not, they are not entitled to call the tune; their demands are just “whistling ‘Dixie.’”
Ellen Latane Tabb