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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: How can we deal with our troubled past?

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: How can we deal with our troubled past?

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To the editor:

The issue of Civil War monuments is not easy one, especially for a writer of historical nonfiction. The noble and shameful elements of our nation’s history are so deeply intertwined that it’s impossible to consider one without the other, if we’re honest.

We should never forget the mistakes of our past, but neither should we celebrate them. And we should always be mindful of the hurt they can cause.

In choosing to feature the old courthouse on the cover of my book “Martinsville Memories,” I purposely avoided picturing the Confederate monument, because I didn’t want to give it a place of prominence. The words at its base, in particular, were unnerving: “Henry Honors Our Heroes.” The loss of these men’s lives was surely tragic, but in fighting to preserve slavery and divide the union, they were no heroes.

Should we tear down such memorials, or let them stand? Perhaps there is a third option: one that preserves our memory of this tragic time without glorifying it. Perhaps we might replace the “heroes” inscription with something else:

“May we never forget the price of civil war.”

“May we never again take up arms against our brothers.”

“Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)

There are other possibilities. If we can transform a monument to a grim past into a signpost toward a brighter future, should we not do so?

Let our past be prologue to something better.

STEPHEN PROVOST

Martinsville

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