Growing up in Georgia, James loved going to Stone Mountain Park with his family. They would hike up the beautiful rock, listen to the carillon on the lake, and watch the firework displays at night. Many families come to picnic on the lawn in front of the Mountain, where one can see the huge bas-relief on Stone Mountain. Gutzon Borglum commenced the carving of the enormous bust of three prominent Confederate leaders onto the surface of Stone Mountain: President Jefferson Davis, General “Stonewall” Jackson and General Robert E. Lee. Borglum had been commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. He would start the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial before moving to his next project, Mount Rushmore.
Reno is from Jacksonville, Florida, and James is from Atlanta, Georgia. Anyone who has been raised in the South will likely have had similar experiences seeing the Confederate flag brandished upon SUV’s, barbeque grills or even the occasional front lawn. Much grief has been caused by this flag. Recently, in Charleston, a debate has sprung about whether to take down the Confederate flag flying over the state capitol. Given the tragic racism present to this day throughout most of our country, it is very sad to see these flags still waved with pride. If you look at Stone Mountain, you can see that many people are still proud of the symbol of the Confederacy; so much, actually, that they’re fine with a carving 90 by 190 feet of the Confederate leadership into a mountain.
As lovers of history, we both support remembering the past. In order not to forget where we were and how far we have come, we must bear in mind our history. But that does not mean we have to celebrate it. Particularly, it does not mean we should celebrate the atrocious parts. We must remember how a group of states attempted to leave the Union in order to preserve slavery. We do not need to take up the cause of those states in the process. The Confederate flag stood for the enslavement of millions of people. The American flag stands for the freedom of all.
Why not celebrate someone who fought for freedom, and not captivity? Possibly the greatest Georgian, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is a figure worth celebrating. He is a person worth remembering. Stone Mountain, the site of KKK activities and the former memorial of the Confederacy, would become a beacon of civil rights and the non-violence movement. That would be poetic justice. So if it was up to us, we would scrap the carving on Stone Mountain. We should start over. Why celebrate these men who fought for the Confederacy?
Or at least etch a statement above and below the sculpture. A disclaimer of sorts:
“These men fought for the Confederacy, which sought to tear asunder the United States of America and to preserve slavery. They are not our heroes, but they are placed here so that we might remember and not repeat what they did. They sought to take away the liberties and humanity of our fellow Americans.”
Reno Varghese is a rising senior in the School of Foreign Service. James Gadea is a rising senior in the School of Foreign Service. Exit Stage Right appears every other Tuesday.