Visions of The South – Monument
Confederate Soldier Monument Becomes Homage to Christo
This 3o ft. soldier on a high pedestal in Cornelius, North Carolina (25 miles north of Charlotte) stands about a mile from my house. It was erected in 1910 to memorialize Confederate soldiers who had died about 50 years earlier. The South was well into the Jim Crow era, and similar monuments sprouted at that time across the South, paid for by local private associations riding the wave of post-reconstruction prosperity of the industrializing South. Confederate soldiers could now be held in high esteem, as memories of the death and destruction of the war faded, and reconstruction laws had been rescinded. The discriminatory Jim Crow laws were deemed sufficient protection against African-Americans gaining any prosperity or power that might threaten the white establishment. The soldier, though in rest pose, remains armed. The pedestal, wrapped, Christo-like, in a blue plastic tarp includes a bas-relief Confederate Battle Flag (stars and bars) and a beefy field cannon.
Soon after the massacre of 9 African-Americans on June 17, 2015 at a Charleston Church by an avowed white male racist, who draped himself in Confederate Battle Flag gear, the Confederate Flag quickly became an anathema to much of the civilized world. Public buildings, especially the Columbia, South Carolina State House quickly removed the flag that had flown there for decades and survived had scathing international criticism and boycotts of the state.
Also,any of the monuments were immediately covered with graffiti making uncomfortable associations of the flag with the Nazi swastika, the KKK, and general anti-racism statements, plus the names of the recently murdered– perhaps in an attempt to memorialize them along with the Confederate soldiers who had fought to help preserve slavery.
This particular monument’s graffiti was quickly shrouded by the local Cornelius police who said only that it had been defaced by “profanity.” Other photos show no profanity– at least in the traditional sense of lewd sexual references or violent curses.
The statue was unwrapped for a few hours while several local men tried to scrub and power-wash the black spray paint. A photo of that work appeared in a local monthly newspaper. See more photos at http://corneliustoday.com/wp/cleansing-history-at-confederate-monument
However, I noticed a few days later, the blue wrap was back on. Was thegraffiti too difficult to clean by non-professionals? Had the mysterious group returned immediately after the cleaning to spray paint again?
I walked up to the monument, and saw that a sign had appeared, warning that the monument was private property and under 24 hour observation with an infrared camera. I didn’t see a camera, but the phone number is good, just haven’t been able to connect to get the story.
In a recent news dispatch, the Mt. Zion Methodist Church, which had earlier denied that the monument was erected on church land, admitted that indeed it was on church land, putting them in the difficult position of perhaps supporting an extremely unpopular cause. On the other hand, Southerners can have very different views about their traditions and heritage, so there is an on-going conflict. And for whatever reasons, the blue wrap remains in place. It will probably be there for a while, because the topic easily inflames passions. Passion can be a dangerous thing in the South, and finding a compromise solution will be as difficult as it was during the Civil War.