PerspectivesA.G. Gancarski Jacksonville Today Contributor
The Women of the Southland monument in Springfield Park, as seen in November 2021.

OPINION | Confederate monuments are here to stay 

Published on March 20, 2022 at 9:06 pm
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The Jacksonville City Council is set for yet another of its masochistic explorations of what would, in a 21st Century city, be a simple question: Should a monument to a band of seditionist criminals, the legacy of whom looms over us like the shadow of a 500-foot statue of Jim Crow, be maintained for all to see?

It seems so simple, typed out. 

The Confederate States of America: a band of traitors defending chattel slavery by any means necessary, and postwar monuments like the one in Springfield Park, stand solely as a sop to the yokels, hicks, rubes, and Southern gentlemen who needed to be stroked that this regional identity, built on bloodshed and a grievously unjust hierarchy, was somehow validated and valiant, with a caste system from God himself.

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The cracker set got their Jim Crow laws, their segregated schools, their residential redlining, and a big ol’ gloopy spoon of lukewarm soppy mayo epitomized by such as the Tribute to the Women of the Southern Confederacy, currently tarped-over in Springfield Park.

By all accounts it is another fine tarp job by the city, which has managed to tarp its way past every imaginable equity issue since Consolidation almost 55 years ago. It could stay tarped indefinitely. 

One Councilman has a solution: At-Large Group 4 Republican Matt Carlucci wants to spend no more than $500,000 to move the statue, with any cost overage being handled by private sources committed to that effort.

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Sounds simple enough. In theory. 

Until you consider the realities of this City Council and its Republican supermajority, of which Carlucci seems to be the only person really excited about moving the monument. And when you consider what a political loser monument removal is with Republicans, well, you see the dilemma they all face. 

A phrase often used when trying to appeal to conscience is “you don’t want to be on the wrong side of history.” In this case, Republicans don’t want to be on the wrong side of their voters. 

And those voters see these statues as History, real American Heritage. Not sentimentalist agitprop claptrap designed to reel in the suckers of yesteryear and reinforce the structures of a discredited socioeconomic model for the purposes of social control. 

And they also don’t want to see those statues as reminders of the genocide Africans were subject to, both in transit from the continent, and on the blood-soaked soil of the American South. They don’t look at those statues and see the flipside of an unholy, irreparable violence. 

When they bought their Chinese-made Confederate flag at the truck stop, they just meant ‘heritage not hate.’ They weren’t thinking about the generational violence visited on those who were enslaved, then saw a system rigged against them, commodifying them over and over again as America destroyed neighborhoods with interstates and families with the prison-industrial drug war.

Those are the Republican base voters, steeped in a combination of perceived white skin privilege and a real, paradoxical sense that their standard of living is in inexorable decline, with a dollar in freefall and concepts like homeownership shunted to the same waste bin that holds the 40 hour work week and the American Dream. Those 20th Century prerogatives are more like post-rogatives now. 

These walking loaves of Wonder Bread are pissed. And they aren’t voting for any glad handing ‘thank you for your leadership’ pie eaters who want to spend their hard-earned tax dollars to destroy, relocate, or recontextualize history. 

We have seen how these arguments work, over and over again, wearing down a bunch of friendly dealmakers who just want to be liked and give pretty speeches, but who instead end up raked over the coals by the general public. 

My favorite comment from committees last year was from Republican Danny Becton: “Are we to go to Boston and remove the Liberty Bell and all the monuments of the Revolutionary War too?” he asked, both misplacing the Liberty Bell and mangling logic: monuments to the Confederacy would be like monuments to the occupying Brits in that metaphor. 

The only reason that one Confederate soldier statue is out of James Weldon Johnson Park was because Lenny Curry made it happen in the dead of night, precluding demagoguery against it. But that was 2020, and that was a very different time.

This is 2022, the backlash year of “Stop W.O.K.E” and tone policing from the right. It’s a very hard time to sell Republicans, whooped up into a culture war frenzy by America’s Governor (™), on the need for social equity. 

After the Charlottesville violence last decade, where white nationalists marauded through the streets of the Virginia city, Councilwoman Anna Brosche pushed to move statues. No luck then. Likewise, the Curry administration was rebuffed in its attempt to get the $1.3 million needed to move the Springfield statue in a way that didn’t damage it. Shot down in committees, saved from defeat by a timely withdrawal motion on the Council floor. 

Will Matt Carlucci be luckier because he’s asking for less money? Time will tell, but I’m betting on the tarp. 

author image Jacksonville Today Contributor email A.G. Gancarski has been the Northeast Florida correspondent for Florida Politics since 2014. He writes for the New York Post and National Review also, with previous work in the American Conservative and Washington Times and a 15+ year run as a columnist in Folio Weekly.

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