A recent letter to the editor proposed that the statue of Old Joe on the Gainesville square should not be removed because “no one has pointed out anything offensive about him” and “he represents war veterans everywhere.”
I would like to offer counter-perspectives to both of those statements by using the language provided on the monument’s base:
“To the Defenders of the Confederacy, Patriots The record of whose fortitude and heroism in the service of their country is the proud heritage of a loyal posterity.
‘Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children and their children another generation.’
Dedicated to Southern Convictions, Consecrated to Southern Valor”
I see no mention of “war veterans everywhere,” not even for the Spanish American war veterans that Old Joe was originally sculpted to represent. If you walk a mere two blocks off the square along the solar trail, past the library and into the Rock Creek Greenway, you enter Rock Creek Veterans Park, which explicitly and beautifully honors all 20th century veterans.
As much as I wish I could see Old Joe as a testament to modern Southern hospitality, I see nothing welcoming about him.
In Old Joe I see a monument that is quite definitively for the soldiers of the Confederate South, honoring them as patriots and as heroes. In Old Joe I see a monument fully dedicated to honoring the Southern conviction of owning slaves and the Southern valor in defending that ownership.
In Old Joe I see a monument begging us to ensure that future generations never forget our "proud heritage" of owning and oppressing other human beings. I find him offensive.
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