Saturday, August 19, 2017

Honoring the real patriots

Heather Heyer
By Tom Walker

Heather Heyer was a patriot who died defending her country against fascists and racists who wanted to bring it down. She deserves to have a statue memorializing her too-brief life. And I know just the place for it.
Heyer, 32, was killed on Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, Va. That’s where a car driven by James Alex Fields Jr. plowed into a crowd of protesters opposing a rally of neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and other hate groups. Nineteen other people were injured.
Fields, a 20-year-old Ohio man who reportedly was a Nazi fan, has been charged with second-degree murder in her death.
The focal point of the protest was a big bronze statue of confederate general Robert E. Lee, sitting astride his horse, Traveller, in Emancipation Park. The city of Charlottesville wants to take it down. White supremacists scheduled their “Unite the Right” rally to protest that. And the counter-protesters — including Heather Heyer — were there to make their voice heard.
Lee's statue
There were all kinds of First and Second Amendment things going on. Nazi and confederate flags. Shields with Nazi symbols. Nazi chants like “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” Tiki torches, banners. Assault rifles and handguns.
Fights broke out. The leftists knocked down the rightists’ shields. Tiki torches were wielded, to be met with baseball bats. It was turning into something like a “Game of Thrones” battle. And then Fields used his car as a battering ram sending bodies flying.
And Heather Heyer died.
Heather was a paralegal at a Charlottesville law firm, helping clients deal with bankruptcy. She had just celebrated her fifth anniversary with her firm. Her boss, Larry Miller, described her as precise, witty and like a member of the family.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe praised Heyer. "She was doing what she loved," he said. "She was fighting for democracy, (for) free speech, to stop hatred and bigotry."
That is in sharp contrast with Donald Trump’s description in his Aug. 15 press conference. After going back and forth for three days over who was to blame for the attack that killed Heather, Trump finally settled on an answer: Both sides were responsible.
“I think there's blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it," Trump said. “You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent," he added.
Trump repeatedly emphasized that he believed many of the “Unite the Right” rally participants were not members of hate groups and were simply there to protest the pending removal of Lee’s statue.
“You had people in that group who were protesting the taking down of what to them is a very, very important statue,” Trump said, before suggesting that Lee and other Confederate-era generals, including Stonewall Jackson, are the victims of historical revisionism.
Speaking rhetorically, Trump asked whether George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both slave owners, should suffer the same fate and have their statues removed. “You're changing history; you're changing culture,” he said.
And speaking of “changing history,” that “very, very important statue” of Lee was created in 1924. In asking for its removal, a petition said the statue was a symbol of “hate” and a “subliminal message of racism.” Washington and Jefferson, several writers have noted, helped form our nation, while Lee and Jackson tried to tear it down.
So here’s my proposal. Replace Robert E. Lee’s statue with one of Heather Heyer. She showed more courage than the Republican members of Congress and most of those on Trump's cabinet. And she's definitely shown more patriotism, more love of country than the guy who said "both sides" were to blame for her death.
  Someone already has placed a handmade sign in front of the statue.It says: "HEYER MEM. PARK." Not much, but it’s a start.


Anonymous said...

I recently found myself unclearon how I felt about the removal of monuments, plaques and assorted other honors for those who fought for the south in the civil war. Without understanding the real implications of those reminders and how they came about, I mistakenly believed that perhaps leaving them in place would be reminders to us to be better, remembering how horribly wrong we'd been, much like the stolpersteine in Germany and parts of Europe. I checked with a friend whose opinion I value and she checked with someone who knew more than we did. I haven't stopped thinking about how misinformed I've been in my life with regard to the subject, when in fact these memorials were brought on the scene and what their true meanings are. Either I wasn't paying attention in school the day this part of history was taught or it was never taught in class. It should have been but no matter, I know now and I think a Heather Heyer monument is a monument that would never be in danger of needing removal. We need true heros to look to and remind us that hate in any form is not acceptable.

Tom Walker said...

Thank you, Anonymous. That's pretty much the same thought process I've gone through about the Confederate memorials. The Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson statues were erected during the racist Jim Crow era. It's time for them to go.