Dear Pentagon EIS Committee,
The removal of the Arlington Confederate Monument, a genuinely considered artistic masterpiece, created by Sir Moses Ezekiel, would not be an “environmental” improvement. It is a great historic monument which was dedicated to reconciliation between the North and the South following four bitter war years where nearly 800,000 Americans died, on both sides. There has never been any conflict in American history before, or afterwards, that has ensued so much blood. And all these Americans who fought and died for their cause, should be honoured.
I’m a proud American. My parents were Vietnamese immigrants. Papa was one of the military attachés at the South Vietnamese Embassy in 1956, in the year I was born. I came to Washington as a five-month old infant. Hence, it’s always been for me my hometown, and Virginia, my home state, though now I live across the Potomac in Maryland, which is now home.
Still, the entire Chesapeake Bay region is home on either side of the Potomac. I go back and forth between Washington, Virginia, and Maryland. This is my place on earth.
Moreover, my father became Chief-of-Staff of the South Vietnamese Air Force under President Ngo Dinh Diem. I have two uncles and two cousins who served in the South Vietnamese Army in the fight against Communist North Vietnam. It was a horrible and unnecessary war; a horrific fratricidal war as well as a war of Communist aggression. In the former sense,
I perceive the American Civil War to have been so. Today, as Vietnam is under the full control of the Vietnamese Communist state, the Vietnamese war dead on the North Vietnamese side are justly honoured. They fought bravely for their cause, though my family fought against them. Those men’s memory should be respected. But throughout South Vietnam, it is illegal to have any memorials or statues to commemorate South Vietnamese officers and soldiers who defended the Republic of South Vietnam. Anyone who attempts to honour these war dead will be arrested and punished.Try locating a South Vietnamese flag in public view. It’s persona non grata like the Confederate Battle Flag is today in America.
I am a proud American. But I see things not so black and white regarding the American Civil War, given my own family’s horrible experience in Vietnam.
To take down the Confederate memorial in Arlington Cemetery is truly shameful and dishonourable, not worthy of the great United States which went to the aid of my family’s country and lost 58,000 men in Vietnam. No, it is not honourable. America is better than this. South Vietnamese officers and soldiers are NOT honoured in their own country, in their own region. So why is that American soldiers from the South not honoured in their own region?
The Confederate soldier was and is an American soldier. I’ve known descendants of Confederate soldiers whose ancestors also fought in the War of 1812 and the American Revolution.
Let’s look at Sir Moses Ezekiel, who was knighted in Italy for his services to the arts. In the 19th Century, Sir Moses was a celebrated sculptor. Amongst his patrons and visitors included celebrities such as: the great Italian writer Gabriele d’Annunzio; Marguerita, Queen of Italy; General Ulysses S. Grant; Hungarian composer Franz Listz; Kaiser Wilhelm II. Although Sir Moses spent his life & career in Italy, he did commissioned works in America.
Some major works include “Religious Liberty”, commissioned by B’nai Brith. It is now on display at the National Museum of Jewish History. Sir Moses Ezekiel was a Jew, one of 6,000 Jews who fought in the Confederate Army. Are you all saying that Jews, who have suffered such racial torment and prejudice in their long ancient history, fought for the South to preserve white supremacy and the suppression of another oppressed people, African-Americans, whom, as Jews, would naturally empathise with?
Sir Moses Ezekiel said slavery was an evil the South inherited and needed to be abolished. But he was from Virginia. He became a VMI cadet and fought at New Market. He was not sorry because he was defending his home state from invasion.
After the War, he left for Europe. And Sir Moses continued to obtain commissions from America. He has a work at Drexel University in Pennsylvania. There are 11 statues he made of artists which are located in the Norfolk Botanical Garden. Another work of Sir Moses is the sculpture “Jennie McGraw Fiske”, located in Sage Chapel, Cornell University. Sir Moses’ statue of Christopher Columbus is located in Arrigo Park, Chicago. It was especially commissioned for the famous 1893 World Columbian Exposition, which put the United States on the global map as an emerging world power. The statue was placed over the entrance to the Columbus Memorial Building.
So far, what I am trying to say is that the creator of the Confederate Memorial in Arlington was a great sculptor, renowned in his time, and produced works of art for both Jews and Gentiles that can be found throughout America and Europe. None of this art has anything to do with what I call the wicked heresy of our era, “Presentism”, in which the American past is distorted and misrepresented to suit the most powerful and prejudiced narratives created by progressives, either intentionally or in ignorance, as they shape our “present” time–that anything to do with the traditional South and Confederate memorials and heritage are evil.
But then, what are we to say about the increasing efforts throughout America to cancel the Founding Fathers, Christopher Columbus, and even Abraham Lincoln? I am a member of the Knights of Columbus, and I find highly objectionable the anti-Catholic bigotry against Christopher Columbus. This is a warning. The entire Western Cultural Heritage will be eventually on the chopping block.
More and more schools, including my goddaughter’s private Catholic school, have abandoned an official US holiday, Columbus Day, and replaced it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. I would love one for Indigenous Peoples Day, whose cultures I’ve loved since childhood-but don’t replace Columbus Day, which is still an official American holiday.
We can find another day for Indigenous Peoples. Do you all see what I’m saying? Totalitarian societies establish their power by cancelling and negating the actual history and heritage of a nation.
Totalitarians, like the Communists my family fought, replace street names, tear down monuments, re-invent textbooks, create alternative historical realities in the media, cancelling the true past, in order to create an interminable Present that suits their need for complete power and ideological control. Sir Moses Ezekiel’s Confederate Monument has been honoured by every US President from William McKinley (a heroic Union officer and who understood the goal of Sir Moses to seek conciliation with his Arlington Monument) to Barack Obama. It is a great work of art. It is a precious artistic part of American history and culture. Sir Moses’ Arlington Memorial symbolises the most traumatic period in American history and how Americans, both Northerners and Southerners, found a way to make amends with each other at the end of the 19th Century.
Leave the Ezekiel Arlington Monument in place as it is. We’re living now in the 21st Century. We’re not necessarily doing so well with our own social, cultural, and economic problems. Let’s work on our own real domestic and foreign issues, and respect what our forbears tried to do in their own time. That’s giving respect to them and possessing a mature historical perspective. Our forbears had their sins; however, as I’ve studied the comportment of Americans, Northern or Southern, in the American Civil War, they had virtues we sorely lack. So let us not throw stones at those who lived in the past. They cannot fight back now. Let us instead light candles in our chosen places of worship to their memory.
Now let us begin the task of overcoming our own real sins and find how we can make a better America based on a new resolve and master the fortitude of the Americans of the Generation of 1861. We must learn and appreciate our American heritage, knowing that every generation has its sins and virtues. We will be judged as such in the future. Will we pass the test that the Generation of 1861 did? And I mean both Northern and Southern Americans. Both sides passed the test of courage & reconciliation. But will we?
Don’t let the radical Presentism of our age destroy Sir Moses’ masterwork, the Confederate Monument in Arlington Cemetery. If the Department of Defense does this, it will bring eternal shame upon itself and its leaders, for being too cowardly to stand up to the contemporary societal forces which would cancel both American culture and history. Look, my family fought Vietnamese Communists. We came here because we believed America stood for what was brave and true. I do not believe in the least that Sir Moses Ezekiel’s Confederate Monument in Arlington Cemetery is a white supremacist monument.
It is a monument to remember the Southern soldiers who fought and died for their cause; moreover, it is fundamentally, at its core, Sir Moses’ monument to reconcile their Southern spirits that are gathered around the Monument, with the spirits of their American brothers who died for the Union, buried elsewhere in Arlington Cemetery. All of Arlington Cemetery is hallowed, sacred American ground. All of it.
Certainly, this includes Sir Moses Ezekiel’s Arlington Confederate Monument and the graves of the American veterans buried around in its circles. Yes, these buried Confederate soldiers are also American veterans. Let us all reconcile today in 2023. Americans need reconciliation now, in a tumultuous time of acrimony, hatred, and bitterness. For the Generation of 1861: Reconciliation was what Sir Moses Ezekiel’s Arlington Monument stands for. I’ve visited several times Sir Moses Ezekiel’s Confederate Monument in Arlington. Not only Confederate soldiers from every Southern state are buried there, but some of their widows as well. I’ve walked through those concentric circles and gazed at the gravestones with the names of Southern soldiers, often giving their regiment, sometimes their rank, and their home state. Sir Moses Ezekiel, successful as he was and loving his adopted home of Rome, Italy, chose to be buried under a simple marker near his Monument in Arlington. Keep it standing.