Even Robert E. Lee’s Great-Great Grandson Wants Statues Torn Down

While Donald Trump, a man who speaks in hyperbole and absolutes like “bad” and “sad,” is finding it difficult to condemn violent racists, the great-great grandson of Robert E. Lee, the Civil War general whose statue spurred the protest, spoke out against the hatred and said that the statues should be taken down.

The violence in Charlotte, Virginia erupted over the weekend during a planned white supremacist protest over the fact the city’s plans to remove the statue after the city council voted, saying that the monuments to the Civil War are, “painful reminders of the violence and injustice of slavery and other harms of white supremacy that are best removed from public spaces.”

“There’s no place for that,” Robert E. Lee V tells Newsweek, referring to the white supremacist protesters who carried torches and marched through Charlottesville on Friday. “There’s no place for that hate.”

While he didn’t mention Trump by name, the younger Lee said that even his great-great grandfather would have done a better job denouncing the Neo-nazis and white supremacists.

“We don’t believe in that whatsoever,” Lee says. He is quick to defend his ancestor’s name: “Our belief is that General Lee would not tolerate that sort of behavior either. His first thing to do after the Civil War was to bring the Union back together, so we could become a more unified country.”

“We don’t want people to think that they can hide behind Robert E. Lee’s name and his life for these senseless acts of violence that occurred on Saturday,” Lee says.

As for whether the statues should remain, Lee says yes, but in proper context.

“I think that is absolutely an option, to move it to a museum and put it in the proper historical context,” Lee says. “Times were very different then. We look at the institution of slavery, and it’s absolutely horrendous. Back then, times were just extremely different. We understand that it’s complicated in 2017, when you look back at that period of time… If you want to put statues of General Lee or other Confederate people in museums, that makes good sense.”

In other words, much like Holocaust memorials, memorials to the most divisive, cruel and violent time in American History should be educational and cautionary, not something to be worshiped.

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It’s pretty clear that Lee is right about what his ancestor and namesake would have thought. It’s well documented that even the original Robert E. Lee didn’t want the Civil War memorialized. He wanted the nation to heal.

“I think it wiser,” the retired military leader wrote about a proposed Gettysburg memorial in 1869, “…not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”


Featured image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.