Yet again, the “Old Joe” Confederate memorial has become the center of debate and discord. Time and time again, folks in our community have expressed their concern in regards to having this monument to the Confederacy and its supporters in the center of Gainesville — I too share their concern.
Put plainly, I feel the statue is a celebration of a horrific time for our country — particularly so for the ancestors of black Americans. The reality is that this statue, no matter how adored it is by some, does not make every Gainesvillian feel welcome in their own community.
And while that point continues to be debated and likely will be for some time, one thing is not debatable: “Old Joe,” intentionally or not, is dividing our community.
Why not instead build a monument to actual members of Gainesville who have given so much to Gainesville and Hall County? There are numerous groups and individuals who I think would be deserving of such a monument in the center of the Gainesville square: our poultry workers who drive our economy, trailblazing former mayors of Gainesville John Morrow and Myrtle Figueras, or World War II hero and Medal of Honor recipient Alexander Nininger. These are just a few of the underappreciated people who all of us should be celebrating.
To those who will inevitably argue that I am trying to erase history — I am not. That is why I support efforts to move this statue into a museum (perhaps the Northeast Georgia History Center) where it can be used to educate us on the Civil War and the Confederacy in an unbiased, balanced and academic context.
I ask those who are reading this: who is more deserving of a statue in the center of our community? Who has done more for our community? “Old Joe” or the poultry workers? “Old Joe” or John Morrow and Myrtle Figueras? “Old Joe” or Lt. Alexander Nininger? To me, the answer is clear.