Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Symbols Are Important

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Symbols Are Important

I was very interested to read Mr. Spiegel's comments on the vote before the Fairfax County School Board (“Lessons from History” July 20) on whether to change the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School. He suggests a resounding "no." He argues that Stuart, as a Confederate general, supporting slavery and Robert E. Lee, also a slave-owning Confederate general, as well as several slave-owning Presidents should not be forgotten by history and thereby ensure that we will always be reminded of our past.

He neglects to mention one crucial distinction. Stuart and Lee both took up arms in insurrection to the United States to defend the South's "Peculiar Institution." The Presidents did not. In addition, the high school was named for Stuart in 1958. Surely, Mr. Spiegel is aware that many resurrections of the Confederacy occurred in reaction to the Civil Rights movement of that time. There were many cold calculated attempts to remind African-Americans citizens exactly where they stood in regards to those that would have the south "Rise Again."

Symbols are important. They teach us and remind us. Symbols can also show us a way forward, as witnessed by the removal of the Confederate flag at the statehouse in South Carolina after the brutal murder of nine people in Charleston.

Symbols can also fetter us to a past that stinks of the evils of slavery and an armed insurrection against a nation just beginning to live up to those words of justice and liberty for all.

So, I would not suggest a resounding "no." The vote is worthy of careful consideration. To dismiss this as political correctness would be to forget our history and we all know what Santayana had to say about that.

Adriana van Breda