Ald. Phair’s virtue is far superior to the one-armed veterans of the Union cause
who shed blood so that all Americans could be free
A Madison citizen e-mailed Ald. Matt Phair, urging that the memorial stone to the Madison woman who cared for the graves at Confederate Rest cemetery not be removed. The following exchange of e-mails captures the virtue-signaling arrogance of an alder blithely insouciant to the history of the city he governs.
Paula Fitzsimmons to Ald. Phair: I urge you not to dishonor the memory of the veterans who fought in the Civil War, many of whom fought to end slavery. I have an idea: Instead of attempting to destroy symbols of history, why not utilize your resources to educate people on the good that was done during this and other periods?
I’ve been learning a lot about my Polish history, including the fact that revolutionaries from Poland who came here worked to free and educate the slaves (prior to the Civil War). Most people don’t know this, but are astounded when they find out. I’m also certain most aren’t aware of the selfless efforts made by those during the Civil War.
Focusing on the good is cheaper and more effective — and it will do more to bridge gaps than wasting money on tearing down monuments.
It’s disconcerting that the City has money for things like tearing down monuments and expensive police studies, but is “broke” when it comes to things like funding more police officers (thanks for funding the eight, however!) and creating cement barriers to protect us from extremists who drive into crowds.
Ald. Phair responds to Paula Fitzsimmons:
Thank you for your email. I cannot speak for how my colleagues on the Council came to their conclusion to vote for removing the marker but I will attempt to explain mine. My reasoning was quite basic, actually. The marker in question was erected in the very beginning of the 20th Century by a woman who was a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The United Daughters of the Confederacy was/is a group that was formed in 1894 as part of the larger “lost cause” movement with the goal of glorifying not only the men who fought for the Confederacy but the cause itself. It was a white supremacist organization, plain and simple. It, and other groups associated with the lost cause movement, began re-litigating the Civil War by arguing that it wasn’t really about slavery but instead was about secession and states’ rights. This, while states were wanting the “right” to uphold their Jim Crow laws; laws that didn’t allow blacks to vote, have equal access to education, housing, etc. These Lost Cause organizations held parades, put up monuments, markers and museums around the country to perpetuate this terrible legacy. Forest Hill Cemetery became a small part in a much larger campaign.
So, for the simple reason that the marker was put up as a symbol of white supremacy I supported it being removed. The gravestones are still in place and Madison Parks has a registry of the names of the POWs who rest there. If at some point in the future, the City would like to re-engrave them (they are pretty faded at this point), there is nothing that says that couldn’t happen. I don’t believe anyone wishes to desecrate or erase the names of the young men who died at Camp Randall, just the ugly, revisionist history of white supremacy that has a lasting legacy on our country, state and city.
Your Bloggeur responded to Ald. Phair: Paula was kind enough to share your response with me. Five points of history:
1) Undoubtedly, the Daughters of the Confederacy took a more benign view of their fathers’ and brothers’ role in the Civil War than we do today. However, they were hardly the KKK.
2) The Wisconsin veterans of the Union cause in the same generation — men who had fought to preserve the Union and had shed blood to end slavery — asked their former adversaries in the South to finance the very monument you want removed. (More here.)
3) The stone is more a memorial to a Madison resident named Alice Whiting Waterman who, at first single-handedly and then with the cooperation of Wisconsin governors, both generals in the Union cause, helped her maintain Confederates Rest. (Those generals/governors being Lucius Fairchild, who lost an arm at Gettysburg, and Cadwallader Washburn, who served at Vicksburg under Grant.)
4) The stone is inscribed, simply: “Erected in loving memory by United Daughters of Confederacy to Alice Whiting Waterman and her boys.” That’s it. No rewrite of history. No lost cause nostalgia. No justification for slavery. No triumphant Confederate general brandishing a sword.
5) The stone was the first permanent accounting of the names of the dead and — 112 years later — is itself part of history. It should also be remembered that most of the monuments one sees relating to the Civil War — North and South — were erected during this period, as those who fought were old men. That holds for the many monuments one sees today at Vicksburg and Gettysburg and in courthouse squares across the nation.
Ald. Phair to Your Bloggeur: Of course she was [nice enough to share my response, presumably].
Your Bloggeur to Ald. Phair: No defense of your position?
A second response from Your Bloggeur to Ald. Phair: Do you have both of your arms, Matt? Did you shed blood in the fight to end slavery and preserve the Union? Did you witness your comrades, boys from your hometown, get mowed down by grape canister and minnie balls? By what self-administered dispensation to you presume to hold moral superiority over the one-armed survivors of the Union cause who lobbied for and helped dedicate the monument at Confederates Rest?
Ald. Phair to Your Bloggeur: Whatever David.
Whatever! That’s his answer?
Blaska’s Bottom Line: By Phair’s logic, we should rename Wilson Street, which bounds the City-County Building.
It’s named after the racist president Woodrow Wilson. [CORRECTION: Actually, Constitution-signer James Wilson of Pennsylvania.] Woodrow Wilson was “extremely racist, even by the standards of his time.” Wilson re-segregated the federal workforce and promoted the racist 1915 movie, Birth of a Nation, credited with stoking the fires of the Ku Klux Klan. Helzz Bellzz, the movie actually quoted Wilson in defense of the Klan.
Tell the Madison Council not to dishonor the Civil War veterans on both sides who buried their hatred on this northern soil. E-mail all 20 Madison Alders. The council meets 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 1.