To the Editor:
Racism in America is a deeply entrenched system. The debate in Oak Bluffs over the two plaques on a Civil War monument underscores this grotesque, blood-soaked stain on our nation. Opponents of removing the plaques argue that they should stay in the name of honoring all who fought in wars. Are these same honors to be extended to the Nazi soldiers responsible for the Holocaust and the death of our fathers and uncles, the perpetrators of the My Lai massacre, the snipers who killed unarmed civilians and children in Sarajevo, and the genocide of our Native American population? I think not!
The purpose of Confederate soldiers was to kill Northern soldiers in an effort to maintain slavery. I do not honor Confederate soldiers. Island veterans as a group, not unlike society in general, have divergent and varying perspectives on the important and overall world views. We answered the nation’s call in order to protect the rights of citizens to respectfully and thoughtfully express their differing points of view. Reporter Landry Harlan’s statement in the April 26 Vineyard Gazette — “But others, including Martha’s Vineyard veterans, have taken an opposite view, arguing that the plaques should stay in the name of honoring all who fought in wars” — is, in my opinion, misleading journalism. Island veterans, rightly, do not speak with one voice on this important matter, as Harlan implies.
As a combat veteran, I am wholeheartedly in support of removing the plaques. In my opinion, the presence of the plaques represents America’s longstanding lack of a moral compass. Racism is, regrettably, alive and well on Martha’s Vineyard. All of us will be complicit in our self-annihilation if we do not acknowledge this unsettling reality and act accordingly.