Robert E. Lee fought the wrong fight, but he fought it honorably

Robert E. Lee

The Washington Examiner‘s editorial confidently asserting against the president’s speculation that, “No, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson aren’t next” ends with these words. “Trump asked how to draw the line between Robert E. Lee and George Washington. It’s a good question, and here’s the answer: Lee was being honored for fighting the wrong fight. Washington is honored, despite his wrongs, for fighting the good one.”

I would like respectfully to disagree. Lee was not being honored for fighting the wrong fight, but for fighting it honorably. It’s easy now to throw around words like “traitor,” but those who suffered most from his effectiveness as a general didn’t regard him as one or treat him as one. They understood that, like many others of his time, he regarded his country as Virginia first and the United States only secondarily, and that there was nothing dishonorable in that.

In other words, they understood that honorable men could disagree, even to the point of going to war with each other, without ceasing to be honorable men. That is something we have now forgotten, and our having forgotten it is what is responsible not only for the violence in Charlottesville last weekend but for much of the acrimony of our politics today. Since we no longer understand honor, we no longer understand that honorable men may differ without treating each other as evil.

The Examiner may dismiss the idea of treating Washington and Jefferson as Lee and Stonewall Jackson have been treated, but it’s already happening on the radical left. Those who went to Charlottesville in order to deny those they hate their right of free speech are the shock troops of an intellectual movement which has grown powerful wherever the left has come to dominate, in the academic world and in the media. They put into violent practice the views of intellectuals like Edward E. Baptist and Ta-Nehisi Coates who believe that the American founding and, thus, the American Constitution and the nation itself must be denied their historic legitimacy on account of the historic sin of slavery.

So George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are next, depend upon it. Already there is a movement in Chicago to rename Washington Park. And nor will it stop with them. Recent acts of vandalism against the Lincoln Memorial in Washington and a bust of the 16th president, also in Chicago, suggest that it won’t stop until all those who don’t accept the left’s Manichaean, good and evil view of American history have been silenced and the memory of American pride and patriotism have been eradicated.

Just as the attack on long dead Confederate generals by the militant left is a pretext for delegitimizing the entire American Constitution and the nation as founded, so the hysterical charge of indecency against President Trump for his remarks about the Charlottesville riot is a pretext for the attempt to delegitimize him.

This is obvious because it is only the latest such pretext in a long line of them reaching back to the day he took office. That’s the point of every reference to his Russian “collusion” or his “hate” for Muslims or his just being horrid to poor Mika Brzezinski. Do the media think we won’t notice that they are so obviously out to “get” the 45th president with any excuse to hand? Do they think we can be meekly led to agree that, this time, their ostensible reason for doing what they have wanted to do all along is reason enough?

Well, perhaps we can. But, although I’ve never been a big fan of Trump’s myself, I hope I am not alone in believing that he is our elected president, whom it would be unthinkable to remove from office for some Trumped-up thought crime that everybody knows is only a pretext to enable those whose denial of the legitimacy of the electoral process will not stop with him.

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