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Letter to the editor

It is disheartening, if not entirely surprising, to read the backlash to the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue at the Duke Chapel by many Duke alumni. I, for one, count myself amongst those proud to see my alma matter take decisive action in removing the statue.

What I do find surprising are the conspicuous flaws in the arguments made by those in favor of the statue, especially given that these alumni, having received the same education I received at Duke, should easily recognize these fallacies. Arguments that Lee was an individual of upstanding moral character are quickly disproved by a cursory Google search, let alone a rigorous analysis of the history (see the open letter circulated by Adrienne Harreveld). Arguments that Confederate monuments should be retained as part of "heritage" also seem absurd when viewed in the historical context: a majority of these monuments were erected not following the Civil War, but instead decades later during periods of racial unrest. 

Non-historical arguments that focus on issues of "free-speech" or "political-correctness" at least require thought, given that these are reasonable topics of debate in our political climate. But conflating these issues with that of Lee merely marries two hot-button issues with no similarities, creating a transparent straw-man. A statue is not individual speech, so the first amendment does not apply. While political-correctness arguments portray themselves as an attempt to preserve political debate, they most often are code for intolerance for the evolution of modern society and civil rights; nonetheless, the evils of slavery are not a topic of debate among rational citizens, and thus would not fall under this banner in any case.

I welcome any reasonable political discussion, even over something as seemingly straightforward as not venerating treasonous historical figures. I would simply ask that those arguing against removing Lee's statue use the critical thinking skills that Duke instills in its students to make an argument that has some semblance of logical basis.

Scott Rich

Trinity '12

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