Opinion: What’s the difference between a Confederate grave and a monument?

Posted on Sep 1 2017 - 8:00am by Matthew Dean

Unless you have been living under a rock of non-Confederate statue origin, you have no doubt heard and seen countless opinions on what we should or should not do with the Confederate statues that populate our parks and courthouses in the American South.

“Tear it down!” some yell in their best Reagan impersonation. Others rally to preserve the statues as symbols of history and Southern culture. One person devoid of common sense decided to simply try and blow one up.

My Republican father and I both agree that the statues should be taken off courthouse lawns and public parks – not to be destroyed, but placed in a museum. Beyond discussions with friends and family, I have remained mostly quiet on the issue, seeing that most of what I believe has been said, and the topic is a boring and low-hanging fruit of discussion.

However, a fabricated story on social media recently brought a new angle to the debate.

The post alleged that a Confederate cemetery near Charlottesville had been vandalized. Tombstones were smashed and spray-painted, and even the bones of long-dead soldiers were unearthed.

I found out the story was untrue, but it still presented an unexplored question. I thought to myself whether or not the graves of Confederate soldiers should be regarded as monuments to the Confederacy.

If they are, why? If they are not, why not? Despite how I tried to look at the situation, I came to the same answer: no. A grave and a statue are two very different things.

From what I have seen, nobody is running around trying to get rid of graves, but there have been a few recent cases of minor vandalization.

Exhumation is an illogical solution, so that would mean any sane person against the idea of a Confederate gravesite would have to resort to stripping gravestones.

Do Confederate soldiers deserve marked grave sites? Absolutely. This is America, not late ’70s Cambodia.

Although the cause they fought for was morally wrong, these were still human beings with lives and loved ones. Fighting on the wrong side of a war that took place more than 100 years ago is no reason to posthumously strip someone of his or her dignity.

Do we suddenly get to decide for people which of their ancestors are or are not worthy of having a tombstone?

If you are struggling to agree, think about it like this: Imagine the grave of your great grandfather was dug up, bones exposed and tombstone splashed with paint. I know that it would certainly bother me. To defile the graves of Confederate soldiers is to defile the graves of the ancestors of many Americans, including a large number of native Mississippians.

So while statutes are certainly up for debate and relocation, let’s keep the graves as they should be: undisturbed.

Matthew Dean is a senior criminal justice major from Possumneck.