Editor: Like many other Virginians and Americans nationwide, I watched this weekend’s unfolding violence in Charlottesville with a mixture or horror and shame. Never did I think in my lifetime I would see Nazism resurge to the forefront to boldly march in broad daylight, its proponents proudly waving flags emblazoned with swastikas, and shouting angrily into the night they won’t be replaced, their faces lit with the cruel light of the torches they marched with. The justification for this planned “Unite the Right” march was the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and following the events in Charlottesville it became clear to me that all cities in this country, including Leesburg, now have a duty to remove these statues commemorating Confederate soldiers.
For decades, they have been allowed to stand, inflicting silent harm upon members of communities nationwide, under the pretext of “honoring our past.” There’s nothing to honor. The Civil War marked a time in our nation’s history when we were, much as we are today, deeply divided against one another. This cannot be the legacy we continue to honor. The events at Charlottesville this weekend should hit every Loudoun citizen with fear: if it can happen there, it can happen here. Does Leesburg want to be the next Charlottesville?
In the square of our county courthouse in downtown Leesburg is a statue honoring Confederate soldiers. Arguments have swirled in the past as to whether this statue should be removed or left to stand. I say as a concerned citizen of a deeply troubled country, it is time for the statue to come down—quietly, without fanfare or ceremony. This past weekend in Charlottesville showed that these Confederate statues are rallying points for hate, bigotry and violence. To leave them standing is to erect a flashpoint for conflict in our communities. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu delivered a compelling speech earlier this year elucidating the psychological harm these statues inflict daily upon people of color who must navigate their communities and see these paeans to their generational pain standing proudly in their public spaces. For this reason, they should long ago have been taken down, but the necessity of their removal is now undeniable.
Whatever notion of regional pride is being attributed to these statues, it is time to reconsider. These statues assign honor to the dishonorable; they commemorate divisibility and perpetrate the harmful idea that the Confederacy was in any way an embodiment of American ideals. Having now been usurped by white supremacists for their own platform of hate, Leesburg and all other towns in Virginia that house these statues must take them down. It is for the protection of our community and the safety of our citizens. It has been time, and the equivocating must now stop as we reject the divisibility that is plaguing our country. We the people can, and should, come together and unite in saying that Loudoun and Leesburg will not be the next Charlottesville.
Jessica Kirkland, Ashburn