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Del. Ken Plum: Facing a Monumental Problem

by Del. Ken Plum August 31, 2017 at 10:15 am 73 Comments

This is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Virginia has more Confederate monuments than any other state in the country, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). With 223 by SPLC count, Virginia tops other states like Texas with 178, Georgia with 174 and South Carolina with 112.

Drive through most any small town in the Commonwealth and the statue of an unnamed Confederate soldier can be found on a pedestal near the center of town, near the courthouse, or sometimes by the cemetery. Messages of valor and honor are often chiseled into the pedestal.

A notable exception is Richmond, once capital of the Confederacy. It has a whole street, Monument Avenue, with five different Confederate leaders — Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and Matthew Fontaine Maury — sculpted at a super-human scale on an extra-high pedestal to ensure that everyone must look up at them.

More and more individuals and communities are raising questions about the appropriateness of the statues. After all, they attempt to put in a place of honor individuals who led armies against the United States of America. They were in armies that fought for the right of Southerners to own slaves. Contrary to the argument that the Civil War was about states’ rights, the right that was being claimed by the Southern states including Virginia was a right to own another human being to be used as slave labor. Why should anyone leading such an effort be glorified?

The role the men depicted in the statues played in defending slavery is repulsive enough, but the events leading up to erecting the statues make them even more problematic. The statues were not erected near the end of the Civil War, but were put in place between 1896 and 1915 during the “Lost Cause” effort to rewrite history and portray the Confederacy’s cause as noble.

In 1896, the Supreme Court upheld that “separate but equal” was constitutional. Following that ruling, Virginia and the other southern states started passing Jim Crow laws that almost eliminated African Americans from voting and separated the races in schools, buses, social events and most of life. Southerners started spinning their tales of how wonderful the South had been before “the War of Northern Aggression” and how honorable were the men who served in the Confederacy, leading to the monuments.

That history is important for all to learn. It should be taught and explored in our schools. Likewise, the artifacts of the period should be preserved in our museums along with the statues of individuals who played a role in the history. Public spaces should be reserved for the comfort and enjoyment of all our citizens. They need not be part of sending an underlying message that it was acceptable to take part in an insurrection for the purpose of being able to enslave others.

The monuments need to be shipped off to museums where they can be viewed in their historic context. Otherwise, we face a monumental problem of demonstrations like the one that took place in Charlottesville happening again.

  • Mike M

    Ken, you Liberals cursed the cause of the Viet Nam War as well. Shall we throw paint at Viet Nam memorials?

    After the fact, Liberals started to question the cause of the War in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Shall we mobilize AntiFas to get in the faces of our wounded warriors? Shall we deny them honor? After all, you don’t like their cause.

    If you asked a Confederate soldier, most of whom did not own slaves, for what did he fight? He would have said for Virginia. They died and lost limbs for their states as well. I don’t agree that it is a slam dunk that these statues in honor of the sons of Virginia. It’s not. People disagree with you. You have no license to play the race card. You seem to think your cause is on a roll. But I believe the back story of Charlottesville will expose you and the DNC for the busy premeditated agitators that you are.

    In fact, Liberals always decry wars because wars are painful and they can be politicized. No matter the initial fervor, soon after wars begin and the costs mount, Liberals start to question the cause. So, let’s tear down all the war memorials? I think that’s where you are headed. And of course, you are already flirting with George Washington and Christopher Columbus. People on you side are busy defacing as I write and you say nothing. Crimes, Ken. We prosecute crimes. Not opinions.

    Ken your hypocrisy smells. Your Democratic identity politics are extremely damaging. It may cause the NEXT Civil War.

    Here is a concession: The only valid argument that i have heard about

    • E.

      Jesus Christ man you sound so damn paranoid.

      Nowhere in Ken’s post did he advocate the destruction of memorials. You thinking his free speech is causing the next Civil War is absolutely ludicrous.

      • Mike M

        His last paragraph makes clear that he wants them removed. He also justifies the type of violence we saw at Charlottesville because the statues stand. I will not stand for this. I am not alone.

        • E.

          “The monuments need to be shipped off to museums where they can be viewed in their historic context.” Does not compute to destruction of memorials.

          Have you considered that the monuments should not exist in the first place?

          Side note: I don’t understand the veneration of Columbus. He never set foot in America. He does not even play a minimal part in the founding of the US.

          • Mike M

            He wants them removed from their place of honor. Their location is part of what they are. Shall we do the same with Viet Nam memorials? You fully understand my point. You are just struggling with it.

            I believe the monuments are a natural human reaction to the realities of the day. We are history. Everything around us is history. It would be wrong to relegate the things we don’t like to “museums” which may or may not exist or want them. The museum concept in this argument is a canard.

            Columbus did arrive in America. It’s more of a hemisphere than it is the USA. He had a massive impact! Sorry you want his statues removed too? Shall we call DC the District of [your obscure minority poet here]? The left is headed that way. It’s racial politics, which is racism by definition. It’s not about any real justice.

            You are of the left. You should reconsider.

          • E

            Congrats on joining the “everyone who disagrees with me is a leftist” train. As evidenced in the above argument with John you immediately confirm his criticism of you. Ironic that your immediate defense is to preemptively attack identity politics when all that your initial post did was utilize identity politics.

            Removing statues does not remove history. If Richmond wants the statues removed, then let them decide as a city. Ken’s well within his right to pen his opinions, but government should not be restricting the local rights of individuals to venerate or remove a statue.

            Perhaps I should begin attacking your arguments with odd digressions and generalizations about the Right. Rename DC JesusTown or New Belgium for all I care. I’m not from D.C., nor from NoVa for that matter and while I don’t care for poetry, if you know of any poetry I should read please let me know.

    • John J

      Rather than offer a compelling counter argument you mention Vietnam, antifas, and Charlottesville. Ken is writing about monuments to generals…not ordinary soldiers. So you agree their no arguments against Ken’s thoughtful points and just home you can disparage and change the subject.

      • Mike M

        It’s clear that the generals are viewed as a microcosm of the effort. That has been true for millennia.

        I think you know my argument is compelling. i think it unnerves you because you got a glimpse of the fact that your “political” beliefs are nothing more than religious indoctrination.

    • Willie Reston

      Aww Mikey, are you going to cry when the statues come down?

      “The true reasons for the naming of schools was in response to the Centennial of the war.”

      Yeah… no. Wrong. It was done to spite the civil rights movement. The sesquicentennial of the Civil War has just come and passed; didn’t see a wave of school re-namings then, did we?

      • Mike M

        I’m pretty confident that when I meet the person will all the answers, their name won’t be Willie. And they won’t begin imparting their wisdom by perverting people’s names. Pretty sure. This one might be over your head. See, I presented both sides. You presented one.

  • Rational Reston

    Yeah, these comments are going to be a great exchange if ideas…..

  • LeftSideOfHistory

    Really Ken, what you need to do is get rid of Mount Rushmore. It’s a tribute to men that thought the minority was 3/5th a person. These men owned slaved, knew people that owned slaves and allowed them to stay to not upset the status-quo.

    It’s time for this to end. No more Rushmore

    • The Constitutionalist

      Agreed. Put real leaders up there like Obama, Mandela, and Karl Marx.

      • OldButSlow

        This is just a comment to show that I’m not spam. For some reason, the moderator has decided I am. I would like to participate in the discussion and am not even nearly as aggressive or ignorant as most of y’all, but I’m being blocked for some reason.

    • Scott

      You are mistaken about all of this LeftSide
      1. The counting of slaves as 3/5 of a person was done as a means to eventually get rid of slavery. The abolitionists (including slave holders like Jefferson) did not want slaves counted at all for purposes of apportionment in Congress. Slave states wanted slaves counted in full so they would have more representatives in Congress, and thus could preserve slavery. The negotiated number settled on 3/5 prevented the southern states from gaining too much control over congress based on people they viewed as “property” with no voting rights – or rights at all.
      2. Jefferson tried to free his slaves, but was prevented by the laws of VA. Once thing that needs to be considered re: the founders and their status as slave holders: They were men of their times. Slavery existed for a long time before they were born. It was an institution that they were born into and it was part of the normal culture. Doesn’t make it right, but it is hard to impugn their efforts to create the nation in that context. Should also be noted that good people do bad things and imperfect people do noble and good things. For instance, and this is not meant as an equivalence, but MLK Jr is revered. He did wonderful things for civil rights. But MLK was imperfect. He was a minister who was a womanizer. Should his status as a dirt bag husband and sinner, by his own standards, disqualify him from being revered for his civil rights efforts? Should his monument, along with Washington/Jefferson and others be removed? Where do you draw the line?
      I’ll also share another example of the “men of their times” comment in present day context. Today, on the issue of abortion, about 50% think abortion is horrible and 50% think it is an unalienable right. Based on medicine and science documenting the development of a baby in utero, I think there is a darn good chance that abortion will fall out of favor and will eventually outlawed as murder. Let’s just assume, for the sake of argument, that that happens. 200 years from now, outraged people will say, “How could anyone have stood by and allowed millions of babies to be killed? They either promoted abortion, knew people who were abortionists and allowed the practice to continue.” These people were monsters. Barack Obama voted against efforts to stop late-term abortions. Every school and bridge named for him should be changed and every statue of him should be torn down. Alas, everyone that exists today is a person of the times. Abortion was legal when everyone under ago 43 today was born. Some believe it is a right (like most slave holders did) and other can speak out, but are not able to change Roe v Wade (as abolitionists were unable to do for a long long time.)

      If you are honest, will acknowledge this parallel and understand that the founding Fathers (and every person alive in “The US” from 1620 to 1866) were not bad people. They were “Men of their times.”

      • drb

        To boil down the whole Civil War to slavery is a disservice to history. Why, because there was a legitimate state rights issue at hand. This coming from a family on the other side and have my great great grandfather’s discharged papers signed by Lincoln hanging on my wall.

        The issue of the right and wrongness of slavery was from the beginning of our nation. Just as it was an issue in every nation worldwide. It is still in existence even today. The issue of slavery wasn’t even thought to be problematic until about the era of our nation starting to form. It was the Christian community here and in England that was given enough freedom and power to raise the issue of its wrongness for which a great price was paid by those that did stand up against it.

        At the forming of this nation the issue of slavery was so contentious that there would be no nation formed if slavery was outlawed at the time. So it was put aside for the bigger issue of nationhood. By the time of the Civil War the issue wasn’t to be put off any longer. The price was the same, nationhood. But at that time each state was a sovereign state joined together with other sovereign states as a form of self preservation against other nations. It is a modern day concept of states being nothing more than places on a map of the only sovereign government, the Feds.

        As to the legitimacy of state rights as it was concerned with secession I do not believe that each state had the authority to do so in the manner it took. The southern states all signed onto the Constitution which offered the avenue to withdraw from the Union. They failed to follow it.

        • Scott

          But, but,….racism
          We’ll put drb

      • LeftSideOfHistory

        Men of their times? People that fought for state rights were men of their times. The average man that was told to pick up arms as an army was was coming their way fighting for their family were men of their
        times.

        Yet here you are vilifying them while content with someone calling a minority 3/5 a person because well that’s how it was at the time.

        Seems you get to cherry pick…What about Christopher Columbus? Man of his time that ‘discovered’ America was a horrible person. Yet here we are having a national holiday, statues all over the place. Time to take them down? Or is it OK because that’s just how things were back then?

        • Scott

          You seriously make no sense. You have no idea what the 3/5 thing was about, despite me explaining it, yet you argue as if it you are so sure of your righteous position. You have no idea what you are talking about.
          Let me try to explain one more time. People who hated slavery wanted to limit the number of representatives had in congress, which is based on population, so they could eventually get rid of slavery. Therefore, they wanted slaves counted as “zero people”. 3/5 was the bargain stuck to get to nationhood. It diminished the power of slave states and allowed the Constitution to be ratified. You are seriously ignorant if you think “3/5 of a man” had any hint of racism behind it.

          • LeftSideOfHistory

            So you want to promote people that wanted to through your own words view a slave as less than human? So they could intercede states rights?

            Where am I wrong?

          • Scott

            SMH
            Who said “less than han human” other than you? What don’t you understand about Congressional apportionment and what it meant to the goal of abolishing slavery?

          • LeftSideOfHistory

            Therefore, they wanted slaves counted as “zero people”.

            Your words, not mine

          • Scott

            If you aren’t even going to try, I’m done with you. Google ‘congressional apportionment’ and quit making yourself look like a fool.

          • Mike M

            It would not have mattered because if they were counted as 5/5ths of a person they still didn’t have the right to vote. So their masters vote would have been more powerful at their expense. You are coming across as rather emotional and ignorant.

  • The Constitutionalist

    I just don’t see how doing your best to erase history is going to do anything but cause more division. But then again, given your party’s history, that’s your plan anyways.

  • TheKingJAK

    There are more monuments in Virginia, all because Virginia experienced the majority of Civil War battles along with their subsequent carnage. Furthermore, these statues were erected at a time when Civil War Veterans will still alive and being honored. Third, but most important of all, nobody was fighting against the United States, rather, it was rebels fighting against the government. There’s a reason why one side has always been referred to as the Federals, and the other the Rebels, and they used such terminology during the actual War. Never mind the obvious fact that a Civil War is one fought among the populace, not against, lest you’ve forgotten exactly what a civil conflict is.

  • drb

    If Ken is going to tell us a disingenuous history then shouldn’t we at least say that Democrats even back at the Civil War did not respect the Constitution? The southern states all signed onto the Constitution which offered the avenue to withdraw from the Union. They failed to follow it. That is why smuggling across the border of modern day slaves is supported by today’s Democrats. The Democrat’s Jim Crow laws and welfare rules to destroy black families and horrid education systems is what you get from Democrats. If you don’t like it then a Democrat named “Bull” can shoot a fire hose at you. Even today the Charlottesville riots between fractions on the left are being blamed on the right when the political right wasn’t even there.

  • Paul

    Ken, please explain why you did not use your powers as an elected official in 1896 and fight the commissioning of these monuments.

  • Mike M

    You could? LOL! You never have!

    • Willie Reston

      Actually, I do so regularly. You just can’t see past your inch-thick conservaturd lenses enough to realize it.

  • drb

    BTW, when we point to statues and buildings and organizations that are so horrid why do we not say Democrat Lee, Democrat Jackson, Democrat Davis, Democrat FRD, Democrat Russell, Democrat Byrd, Democrat Wilson, old Democrat army KKK, new Democrat army Antifa?

    • Willie Reston

      Because it’s irrelevant. How many times do you righties have be told that Democrats were the conservatives of the day before you’ll finally understand it? It’s laughable yet sad how many of you still don’t understand this very simple fact, or simply choose to ignore it. The more apt political descriptor for these men is “conservative”, not “Democrat”.

      The same goes for the flip side, trying to take credit for Lincoln being a Republican as if he wasn’t an uber-progressive in his day. Laughable.

      • drb

        You make the point so well.

        • Willie Reston

          Great. And now that you finally understand it, maybe you’ll stop spouting ignorant nonsense and making a fool of yourself.

          • drb

            Again you do make the point so well.Shame you don’t even recognize it.

      • Heh

        Democrats from previous times are now considered evil, racist, conservative Nazis who should be blotted out from history.

        That should give the Democrats of today some food for thought. If you live long enough, you, too, will be considered an evil, racist, conservative Nazi who should be blotted out from history.

        But since Democrats don’t think, they only emote, I doubt this will occur to them.

    • OldButSlow

      Go ahead, if that would make you happy. I don’t think it’s the party label that matters as much as the ignorance and malevolence expressed by an individual or group. In today’s climate, it does seem like Republicans defend Republicans just because they’re Republicans, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea or sustainable when it comes to logic or self-respect.

  • smores!

    Finally, we progressed so far to the left that we are tearing down statues! Can we round up all the old history books and other books that dont share our view points and host Reston’s first annual book burning? It will be fantastic community event, I will bring marshmallows to make everyone’s favorite camping treat.

    • Feh

      The Left has not been burning the history books, but rewriting them to conform to their ideological agenda. That’s why the only American historical figures are Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King Jr, and Harriet Tubman.

      • Feh

        only American historical figures (that your kid knows about)

        • OldButSlow

          My guess is that your kid(s) came home and told you that they learned about them. Which was probably a positive experience for them, since they had not been exposed to these Americans before. You have leaped from that to “…only American historical figures…”

          Anyway, what’s wrong with them? Weren’t they all worthy American historical figures? I think Jackie Robinson or Rosa Parks did a lot more for America than Jeb Stuart, and I’m a proud Southerner.

  • Disgusted

    I often read Kens post and disagree with everything he says. This post however is the first time I’ve actually felt a wave of disappointment to my core, and I am not only ashamed, but embarrassed, that he represents my district.

    • 40yearsinreston

      too bad, you cant vote against him

      • Willie Reston

        Why simply vote against him when you can RUN against him?

        • Disgusted

          I think about it every day….

  • Rain in the Face

    When are all of the monuments to General George Armstrong Custer going to get removed. Or Ulysses S. Grant… How many Native Americans deaths were they responsible for.. History sure looks a lot different on the winning side.

    • Mike M

      Shall we strike from the record the Abenakis and Huron who worked in the employ of the French crown to literally terrorize settler who lived no where near their homelands? They did it for pay. This is not an unusual pattern in US history – something you appear to know little about.

  • I’d rather post as a guest

    I’m confused, I thought Kens job was to represent the Reston part of FairFax County. Where, in the 36th district, are any Confederate Monuments?

  • Reston Realist

    Ken, Did you even study American History in high school or college? Did you understand it? Take some time and read some of the well thought out comments to your divisive, boring monologue…. perhaps you will learn something. It strikes me as odd that you have not responded to any of the comments here to bolster your point. Is that your strategy – throw out ridiculous comments to see if you will get someone angry enough to prove your point about conservatives?

    • Willie Reston

      Can you please elaborate on which historical points Ken was mistaken? And asking anyone to take some of the comments here as history lessons, I mean, WOW.

      • Reston Realist

        Seriously Dude? you are really missing the point here… He did not mention facts, it’s his perspective that is totally misguided– as is yours evidently. Obviously you are in the same misinformed camp as Ken

        • Willie Reston

          Yes, seriously dude. He DID mention facts, many of them. And since you called him out, the onus is on you now to point out which of them are inaccurate and why. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

          • Reston Realist

            Actually, to your point, he did mention facts… I misspoke – I meant to say that: essentially his facts were not relevant to the issue at hand. I edited my comment. thanks for pointing that out.

          • Willie Reston

            Typical conservative weasel. When faced with actual facts or asked to present your case, you simply shrivel up and move the goalposts. You people are unbelievably insecure little snowflakes living in an alternate reality. Seek help.

          • Reston Realist

            Willie, you obviously have some very deep anger and your inability to have a civil discourse in this forum is indicative of that. You should really try presenting your arguments without all the vitriol….It’s really not necessary. I guess it’s the typical liberal mentality though — just shout down anyone who disagrees with you regardless of the issue. I bet you are a lot of fun to be around.

          • Mike M

            Willie, I also addressed Ken with facts. You challenge RR for elaboration on his disagreement. Yet you could not do that with your disagreement with me.

      • The Constitutionalist

        Willie, I’m trying to remember when, if ever, you’ve brought some substance to the discussion…

        Can you fill me in?

        • Willie Reston

          Just because my substantative additions to the arguments don’t jibe with your particular twisted worldview doesn’t mean they aren’t substantive. Sweet Trump mentality you’re working with there, bro.

          • The Constitutionalist

            What? There’s your obsession coming out again. It really is a losing strategy, as I think you can see and saw in November

            “Oh no, he said something I can’t refute, I’m going to say he’s like Trump! That’ll really teach him!”

            Missing in your fine strategy is substance.

    • 40yearsinreston

      his strategy is identity politics
      Get the voters riled up against the opposition
      Since he is in a gerrymandered district with no opponent, he is just carrying water for his party

      • Reston Realist

        Exactly…. he really does need to retire. Truly the poster child for why we need term limits.

    • I’d rather post as a guest

      Well last week he didn’t know what the Gadsden flag was, or what it represented, so I don’t put a lot of faith in his knowledge of American History.

      • The Constitutionalist

        He was a history teacher… go figure.

        • I’d rather post as a guest

          Well then, he is obviously about as great of a history teacher as he is a Delegate!

          • Mike M

            This who can do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t teach play Delegate. Those who can’t play Delegate include Ken.

  • 40yearsinreston

    Must be an election coming up
    Plum divisive rhetoric spikes and out comes the identity politics card

    I question the appropriateness of a gerrymandered district being allowed to continue for so long
    Now that would be a an appropriate topic for Mr Plum to expound on

    • drb

      He has in the recent past. But for some reason a good while back when the Dems had the majority he was silent on the subject.

  • REL

    If Robert E Lee were alive today, and just read this pile of garbage authored by our Va Delegate Ken Plum, I question if he would have still fought so diligently for the State of Virginia.

    • Willie Reston

      You still pretending to be many different people, Mike/Constitutionalist?

      • Mike M

        I use but one name in here. And what difference does it make. You can’t refute anyone’s points anyway.

  • old timer

    Statues don’t talk so leave them where they are. The uproar reminds me of Japanese history books that give revisionist history of WWII.

    The protesters should just ignore the marchers. If the bigots shout their slurs and no-one hears them then…(if a tree falls in the forestand there is no-one there, does it make a noise?

  • Mike M

    Read up. Only in the left and in the left-wing media is he so revered.

  • Independet User

    I’d support removing the statues if I thought it would finally shut these wacky liberals up…. But something makes me feel like they will never be satisfied, and this would only be the tip of the iceberg for them.

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