I protest the “permanent” removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee from the entry way of Duke Chapel. I understand your reasoning for removal now for safety reasons for those worshipping in the Chapel. During the summer school session in 1965, I volunteered to give tours of the Chapel. I learned the reasoning for and the names of all those etched in glass and carved in stone that adorn this great house of worship. I introduced visitors to those figures on the right of the entrance: Martin Luther, reformer of the Bible; Savonarola, preacher of the Bible; and, John Wycliffe, translator of the Bible. On the left: Thomas Jefferson, president from the South; Robert E. Lee, statesman from the South; and Sidney Lanier, poet from the South. General Lee is depicted in his military uniform, but his legacy is that of a statesman. He abhorred war, agreed to lead reluctantly, surrendered graciously and went on to promote education. His inclusion was never intended to promote the Confederacy.
The radical right has hijacked the symbols of the past and have used them to further their own demented ideology. The past is history. We should learn from it and not ignore it. Statues erected in honor of local individuals reflect a way of thinking that existed at that time. To be blind to them is to be ignorant of how we have come to be as a people and nation. We are not pure. Robert E. Lee’s statue was placed there not to promote racism…who would think that that was the reason he was honored in the entrance to God’s house? Think about this before you place the statue in storage and not in its rightful place.
Can you imagine, years from now, another group of ideologues carry the Stars and Stripes while doing their evil, that people would rise up and call for the removal of our flag?
Jerry C. Bernstein MD
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