Madison’s Me-Too movement
The board of directors here at the Blaska Policy Werkes unceremoniously demoted the chief fact-checker here at the Manor, stripped off his epaulets, and canceled his subscription to Guns and Garden magazine. For the first time in over two years of faithful bloggering, a critical mistake of fact was allowed to slip into electronic print.
We suspect Russian hackers working for the Clinton Foundation.
More humbling, the mistake was pointed out by the Annoying One. What next? Will the mosquito be found to have a purpose in God’s plan?
No, Madison’s Wilson Street is not named after the most racist President since the loathsome Andrew Johnson, as the ghost blog claimed. That street, like all the downtown streets (excepting Doty and Main, we suspect), is named for a signer of the Constitution, one James Wilson. Those signers include many slavers, the Pinckneys of South Carolina, for instance.
And, for that matter, President Madison himself, the man singly most responsible for the Constitution. His demise in 1836 prompted the naming of Doty’s proposed new capital city.
This city’s moral preening
Unlike the first president, James Madison never freed his slaves. A brief run at historical cleansing proposed renaming the unimaginatively named Madison Memorial High School but that faded quickly, run upon the shoals of an inconvenient fact; that being that the city itself would need be renamed.
Then murder and mayhem erupted last August over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in the very home of another slaver’s cherished university, Charlottesville, Virginia. Madison’s envious Me-Too mayor, seeking to relive his own confrontational youth and signal his superior virtue, happened upon two monuments at an obscure corner of the Emerald City, the Confederate Rest section of sprawling Forest Hills Cemetery.
One plaque, low to the ground and installed in 1981, extolled “unsung heroes” who “fought with valor” on the side of the losing south. Its removal could be justified.
The other monument is itself Madison history, dear to the veterans who fought the Union cause, who dedicated it 112 years ago in the memory of Alice Whiting Waterman. The lady volunteered her time and limited means to maintain a potters field of 140 southern soldiers who died here as prisoners of war in 1862. In so doing, she inspired two governors, both of whom had been Union generals, to aid in her efforts.
From left: 1) Alice Whiting Warterman, 2) one-armed Gen. Lucius Fairhchild, 3) the memorial to Mrs. Whiting and her boys, 4) the 1912 WI State Journal article announcing the dedication of the stone
After her death in 1897, two former Union Army captains, members of Wisconsin’s famed Iron Brigade, solicited funds from their former enemies in the south to erect the memorial. Those two captains, one of whom lost an arm at Second Bull Run, presided as the Lucius Fairchild post #11 of the Grand Army of the Republic dedicated the stone in 1912 to great fanfare from the citizens of Madison.
Phair has divined sinister motives undetected by the soldiers who actually fought to end slavery. The enlightened Alder, possessing all four of his limbs, condemns the memorial stone as a mysterious, evil talisman encouraging fever dreams of white supremacy upon all who gaze upon it.
The cenotaph’s hateful words crack like the overseer’s whip on the backs of enslaved Africans, inciting racists to new frenzies of hate:
“Erected in loving memory by United Daughters of Confederacy to Alice Whiting Waterman and her boys.”
“Her boys” being 140 Confederate soldiers who died as POWs in Madison shortly after their capture in 1862. Their names are engraved on the stone, the first permanent record of their burial.
Ald. Phair: ‘All white people are racist’
Urging the retention of the memorial to Alice Whiting Waterman at Confederate Rest cemetery, Madison citizen Patrick M. O’Loughlin argued:
Dear Mr. Phair, … I believe you are engaging in guilt by association when you condemn the marker because of WHO put it there, rather than what it actually represents (nothing more than a grave marker.) There was no racist or white supremacist message on the marker. No reference to the lost cause either.
If we are going to revisit history based on 21st Century “progressive” values, then we should be prepared to consider renaming our city and several schools so that they do not honor an actual slave holder (as opposed to the Confederate conscripts buried in Madison.) And don’t forget that our first progressive president, Woodrow Wilson was also an openly racist supporter of eugenics (along with liberal saint, Margaret Sanger.)
Ald. Phair responded:
You make very fair points about some of our past “progressive” leaders. The difference in my mind is that groups like the United Daughters of the Confederacy were trying to resurrect an ideal that many in society were trying to put behind us.
No doubt, some of our past progressive leaders were rather overtly racist and should be plainly called out as such. Some today are still racist they’re just more covert about it. And, you’re absolutely right that when we start discussing race, it quickly points back at many of us because, I believe, most white people, past and present, are complicit in the structural racism that has shaped our society for decades and centuries. However, to my way of thinking, that isn’t a reason to not do the right thing. Which is to take down a symbol (albeit small) that harkened back to a time of human enslavement, state violence and Northern white complicity.
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.
Blaska’s Bottom Line: It is hard to fathom Ald. Phair’s arrogance and that of his fellow alders, who fought no mortal battles, faced no enemy fire, shed no blood in the cause of freedom. That they presume to claim the moral high ground over the one-armed survivors of the Union cause who caused that stone to be is moral preening, a-historic and undeserved.