In his recent book, “In the Shadow of the Statues,” Mitch Landrieu reveals that, while mayor of New Orleans, he walked past a Confederate statue on a public street every morning on his way to City Hall, barely giving the statue a passing glance and certainly not giving it any thought.

But things were completely different for one of his Black friends. He, too, passed the statue every morning, but his thoughts were about the principles of the general glorified by the statue.

He saw it as exalting a man whose troops fought to protect whites who wanted to own and exploit human beings who were not white.

The friend eventually convinced Landrieu that the statue was offensive. The mayor then ordered the statue and three others to be removed from public view. After a long legal battle, the statues were removed to a place where they could not be publicly seen.

While white people don’t always think about their meaning, statues honoring Confederate generals are a constant reminder to Black people that they honor those who fought for the unconscionable act of slavery.

While ostensibly the Civil War from the Southern perspective was to defend states’ rights, a primary goal was to maintain slavery, a practice prohibited in nearly every Northern state.

When a number of Southern states led by South Carolina announced they were removing themselves from the United States, the North objected and the Civil War was ignited.

Those advocating slavery lost the war, but we continue to honor the losers. Unlike Germany, which prohibits any statue or monument honoring Hitler or the Nazis, we erect statues and monuments to the generals and Confederate soldiers who wanted to preserve a belief that Black people could be owned.

The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that almost 1,800 Confederate memorials — statues and other monuments — remain in this country, primarily in Southern towns and cities.

There are 10 Confederate statues and monuments still in Missouri. In 2015, The Boone County Commission voted unanimously to move a Confederate memorial in front of the courthouse to the Centralia Battlefield.

The 5½-ton, red granite rock had been sitting for four decades in downtown Columbia with a plaque that read, “To honor the valor and patriotism of Confederate soldiers of Boone County.”

Also remaining are U.S. Army bases named for Confederate generals, 10 in all, and all in the South: Fort Bragg in North Carolina; Fort Hood in Texas; Fort Benning and Fort Gordon in Georgia; Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Pickett and Fort Lee in Virginia; Camp Beauregard and Fort Polk in Louisiana; and Fort Rucker in Alabama.

President Donald Trump has declared that he has no intention of changing the names of these “great” facilities. But, if they are “great,” it’s not because of the names but because of historical and military distinctions that would endure long after the names were changed. The Pentagon, led by Gen. Mark Milley, is currently looking into the matter.

Are Confederate generals traitors? Yes, because they led an armed movement against this country. They did not accept the words of the Declaration of Independence or the preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

They did not believe that “all men are created equal,” and they did not strive for a “more perfect union.” In fact, they were trying to tear the country apart. That marks a traitor and could be considered treason.

We should not honor traitors. All statues and monuments to the Confederate cause should be removed and, if not destroyed, placed where public viewing is impossible.

That is not erasing history. The Civil War was fought. It is a fact that the secessionists lost. Get over it.

About opinions in the Missourian: The Missourian’s Opinion section is a public forum for the discussion of ideas. The views presented in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Missourian or the University of Missouri. If you would like to contribute to the Opinion page with a response or an original topic of your own, visit our submission form.

Ken Midkiff, formerly the director of the Sierra Club Clean Water Campaign, is now chair of the city’s Environment and Energy Commission and serves on the board of directors of the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center.

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