grieve for the horse, grieve for ourselves

I say: take the general, but leave the horse.

I’m referring to the horse beneath Robert E. Lee on the controversial statue in Charlottesville, Virginia.

I believe Lee himself would agree to having his likeness removed.  In the years following the Civil War, he wrote against creating such monuments to honor leaders of the Confederacy.  He said the South needed to move forward.

Over one hundred-fifty years later, we’re still trying to move on.  Still trying to heal.  Lee was right: putting men like him on high pedestals hasn’t helped us in this struggle.  But I believe honoring his horse might.

No, the horse isn’t a hero.  But neither is it guilty.  The horse was only doing what horses do.  Or rather, what we force them to do. T he horse didn’t choose that war.  The horse didn’t divide the nation.  The horse is innocent.

Many innocent horses died in our Civil War battles.  They endured hunger and the thirst of long marches.  They charged into the line of fire, though their good horse sense told them: don’t!

So I say, leave the Civil War horse on its pedestal.  Not only does it deserve some respect…

…but seeing it could remind us of the painful ugly truth of that war.

Perhaps then, we’ll grieve a great tragedy—and its long aftermath—instead of celebrating a false nobility.  We’ll grieve for what the entire nation lost.  A loss continuing.

It’s been said that removing the statue of Lee “is merely a symbolic gesture.”  In other words: it doesn’t change much in our society.  However, we’ve seen how powerful symbols can be.  Maybe the horse statue could be a potent symbol.  Maybe it could actually help us heal.  I don’t know.  But of this, I’m sure: you won’t heal if you don’t grieve.  So let’s keep the horse.

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry blog

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About Michael Patton

I am a poet, novelist, essayist, cartoonist, graphic artist, peace miller, new mythologist, and fledgling world citizen.... I grew up in Northwest Arkansas and have lived and worked all over the United States.... I'm self-taught, for the most part--which is like searching for the right door in the dark. It's an on-going process.... I don't want to write MY story, I want OUR story, so that's what I'm studying: the human story: past, present, future, in its many aspects--including the spiritual. I'm proceeding at a slow crawl.... I don't see the inner world and outer world as separate. By learning about myself, I learn about others, I learn about my world.... Conversely, as I struggle to understand what I see OUT THERE, I learn about myself.... But to be clear: I don't claim any special understanding. I'm still purblind, still only half-awake.... After frustrating experience with the publisher of my first novel, I've published on my own, beginning with e-books, with plans to move into print and audio. Even video.... Along with a second novel, I've now published eight books of poetry. Each poetry book focuses on a theme. For instance, the collection GLORIOUS TEDIOUS TRANSFORMATION is about the slow difficult wonderful process of change.... In that book, as with all my work, I try to be accessible to a general audience, while also striving to achieve a certain literary quality.
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