To the Editor:
Surely the Oak Bluffs selectmen have good intentions concerning the Civil War monument, but their actions are misguided, and I can’t let the matter rest. What has been written about Confederate soldiers lately has my ancestors spinning in their graves.
What I find missing from arguments supporting the proposal from the NAACP’s Martha’s Vineyard Chapter is acknowledgment that in 1865, the Confederate Army surrendered, and the two armies decided to choose peace. The Confederacy was stopped dead in its tracks. The Union was preserved; the South did not rise again; slavery did not make a comeback. It was by mutual agreement, and both sides kept their word. So in 1891, veteran soldiers, Union and Confederate, marked 25 years of peace with a monument.
Peace after war means a soldier can lay down his weapon. And he can shed his uniform that, by design, obscures differences among an army of men. With peace, veterans of the Civil War were at long last free to mourn the loss of 600,000 fellow Americans, and begin to restore their personal identities. For Charles Strahan, it was as a coffee broker and newspaper editor. Still, veterans know, better than most, that peace is not the end to hatred and our human desire to see the world as us and them, friend and foe. It requires a concerted effort at peacemaking to endure.
If veterans who wore blue jackets say veterans who wore gray jackets are worthy of honor, that’s good enough for me. The Bible goes further to say, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” By a soldier’s monument, Civil War veterans have sent us a message of peace, and in this our era of endless wars, it gives me hope.
That’s my opinion, and I trust I speak for my 19th century kinfolk, German immigrants who provided for their families with subsistence farms in Texas and Arkansas. What message does the town of Oak Bluffs mean to send, that public speech will be censored if we don’t share your opinion? Let’s put the plaques back where they belong.