Dallas has a park in Uptown that's named for Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
I've always liked this park.
It's beautiful. In the spring azaleas bloom. All year round there are trees and grass, a handsome building (loosely modeled on Lee's Arlington) and a fine bronze equestrian statue of Lee and an adjutant. I like equestrian statues. To a designer it sits especially nicely on the site. Plus the granite steps at its base are a good place to eat a sandwich.
General Lee is an fascinating historical figure: a great and still-studied general; a traitor who chose the Confederacy over the Union; and a slave owner who freed his slaves during the Civil War... although once I researched that fact, it turns out that he did so only because it was required by his father-in-law's will. Complicated and ugly history.
Even before Charlottesville this was a controversial park and statue.
Before Charlottesville I would have suggested that hiding history is a mistake - better that the statue be left as it is but with context added, and not just that doomed adjutant and a few informative plaques. I'd like to call in a brilliant artist like Kara Walker to add that context physically, perhaps adding bronze silhouettes in her style spiraling out from the original bronze. Silhouettes of... slaves and those slaves made to dig trenches for the Confederate Army, of wounded soldiers of both armies, of lynching, of civil rights protesters and Dr. King, of Black Lives Matter and the Dallas police who were killed, and now, sadly, of Charlottesville. There is also a local artist who might add projections to this ensemble, turning Lee and these contextual bronze cut-outs into screens for the continuing story of race in America.
I think that could turn a memorial of Jim Crow Dallas into a living, growing, and perhaps important art work pointing toward an America that lives up to its promise.
I'm afraid even great art might become only a magnet for alt.right, neo-Nazi, and the KKK.
I do wish we could keep just the horses. Horses are innocent.
A mock-up of what the Lee statue might become...
(After the art of Kara Walker. If you haven't seen it, you MUST. Powerful, powerful stuff.)
Whatever eventually becomes of Dallas' bronze Lee, his sidekick, and their beautiful horses, we citizens must now make perfectly clear:
Bigotry is wrong. It betrays the soul of America.
We reject it.
Anyone or any group that advocates bias or violence against anyone because of their race, color, religion, origin, gender or sexuality is unAmerican.
ADDENDUM #1: Obviously, we need to change the name of the park back to its original one, Oak Lawn Park.
ADDENDUM #2: Another suggestion for unwanted but historic statues, plant them together in a park like the Russians have... read the BoingBoing post HERE.
ADDENDUM # 3: Complicated issue isn't it? But I think a consensus is emerging that the confederate monuments should be removed. Here are Stonewall Jackson's descendants' views, from an open letter to the Mayor of Richmond, Virginia :
"They are overt symbols of racism and white supremacy, and the time is long overdue for them to depart from public display."
ADDENDUM # 4: This has been a pretty serious discussion - here's the flippant one: