Agitation, Abstraction, Disruption, Distraction…

These words are the most primal reasons that southern, and arguably mainstream American, history is under attack throughout the country. On August 16, 2017, I attended a protest to remove the John C. Calhoun monument in Charleston, South Carolina. While I was at this protest, I gained a lot of insight on how these “protestors” think and how to combat this movement. It was a moment of clarity.

The first thing that needs to realized is that there is hope for southerners and people that are tired of seeing this wanton destruction of history. These “protestors” are not putting together organic, true protests—rather, they are staging political dramas that the masses can consume through media obsession.

I attended this rally to understand the other side and hopefully open a dialogue about the history that was being protested. My friend and I (both young men in the Sons of Confederate Veterans), attended with an open mind and a positive outlook. Being a teacher, I was hoping to engage in a truly productive discussion. We walked around the protest and tried asking people basic questions about Calhoun and American history. Among the questions we asked were:

  • “Did you know that John C. Calhoun served as Vice President twice?”
  • “Are you aware of John C. Calhoun’s theories on limiting government?”
  • “Are you aware John C. Calhoun served in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate?
  • “Did you know John C. Calhoun served as Secretary of State and Secretary of War?
  • “What do you think about the Denmark Vesey monument down the street? (Vesey was a slave that plotted a massive slave rebellion and was later executed—he also has a monument in Charleston just a few blocks from Calhoun’s)

Not surprisingly, none of the people that were asked these questions knew of these facts or would even acknowledge them. At one point, protestors asked my friend to speak but then became aggressive with him. They were posturing as if they were going to hit him because he brought up the fact that Calhoun fought the National Bank, as other members of the crowd began shouting over him with megaphones.

It was at this point that I saw how weak these “protestors” really are in their devotion and cause. Rather than dealing in reality and facts, they are dealing in abstractions. They would not open a dialogue with anyone else because they know they cannot win a logical argument. The truth is that these “protestors” are just trying to confuse people. They gather at the base of a monument, shout things like “f*** Donald Trump,” “f*** the Confederacy,” “all cops are racist KKK,” etc.  There were even transgendered women with excessive armpit hair telling stories about “white nationalists” attacking them in the past. Their ultimate goal is to try and convince people, through aggressive screaming and rhetoric, that southern history and the civil war are nothing more than evidence of intolerance.

Everyone attending keeps their phones on at all times because, deep down, they are hoping someone will be attacked and they will catch it on video. In addition, they lump a lot of other confusing symbols of hate in with their protest. What do Black Lives Matter, the Green Party, homosexuals, and transgender groups have to do with John C. Calhoun? Nothing. Its just a ploy to agitate people and start violence, so that these “protestors” can take the moral high ground and claim the monuments are causing violence.

Make no mistake, this movement to destroy history is entirely political. The people running the protests were waving Green Party flags and were speaking openly about making runs at political office. My friend and I both felt as if there were people in the crowd that were simply being paid to disrupt. When we tried engaging the people that were the most boisterous, there were organizers in bright orange vests pulling the “protestors” around and steering them towards media outlets.

Where was all of this moral outrage over monuments just a few years ago? As a young native southerner, I can safely say that in my lifetime there were no movements to remove this history until after the Dylan Roof shootings in 2015. Could this just be the Democratic Party working secretly to rewrite their own past? It certainly seems that way.

Moving forward, how can good Americans deal with this social and historical crisis? One option is to counter the “protestors” in a positive and peaceful way. Most of the people advocating the monument removals are not truly educated on the past, they are acting on emotion and hoping to catch a video that will get lots of “likes.” Many are just spoiled college kids living on their parents’ dime, who have been indoctrinated with ideas about social justice and the “bad” influence of southern history on America. Some are absolutely being paid and are sticking to a script. They are not ready to be challenged intellectually.

A simple solution my friends and I are considering is to attend more rallies and distribute positive information. For example, next time “protestors” get any ideas about removing the Calhoun monument, we can distribute free information on exactly what Calhoun did and did not do. We can explain that Calhoun advocated a more limited government that might have better protected individual liberties today. Most importantly, when these revisionists continue to be aggressive and use profanity, we can take the moral high ground, stick to facts, and stand together strong.

The rally to remove the Calhoun monument was not a large one, probably not over one-hundred-twenty people. We need more intelligent people in attendance—people who want to see real change. The politicians are not going to help, they are in the mindset to remove monuments in the dead of night without popular support just to get some attention. We can stop this nonsense if we work together, act peacefully, and think logically.

Monuments are not the problem in society today. They are doing their job, and bringing people together to discuss issues. The real problem are these liberal, historical revisionists who will not be happy until America is burned to the ground.

Michael Martin

Michael Martin is a teacher and independent historian currently residing in Eastern North Carolina. He's the author of Southern Grit: Sensing the Siege of Petersburg from Shotwell Publishing and you can find more of his work on his YouTube channel, Truth Decay.

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