The Archetypical Lee
I was having a conversation with one of my closest and dearest friends this morning…and she put words to what I’ve been feeling lately.
She’s been struggling with the public outcry over Robert E. Lee for this reason;
“Robert E Lee embodies to us all that was noble and Godly and honorable. We were brought up to pattern our lives after his wisdom and compassion. Whether or not it is true of him is beside the point…it was the ideals and the example we followed.”
For generations of Southerners, Lee was an archetype of what it meant to be a true to your Southern heritage.
He embodied nobility, courage, chivalry, resolute faith in God and country, and the family values that mark those who believe in such things.
Racism and white supremacy were not part of those shared values…because while Lee was a real person, he became a archetype of what a true child of the South was supposed to be.
Some would say that it is impossible to separate the real Lee from the archetypical one, that all that matters are his actions and his words that furthered the oppression of African Americans.
I’m not so sure.
We can and we must recognize the racial inequality that has been part of this country from the beginning.
We must stand against the evil of racism wherever and whenever it rears its demonic head.
However, I think it unwise to decree by fiat that all symbols and archetypes have the same meaning to all people in a very diverse and divided country.
My friend was born and reared in the South and Lee means something completely different to her than he does to this native Oregonian.
To her, Lee is an archetype of the same values that I hold dear, just with different archetypes to model.
This conversation about the Confederate memorials is not a conversation at all without the voices of those who have similar feelings as my friend.
They are denied their voice because to speak from the heart would only result in shouts of racism.
They are not racists, but traditionalists.
They will be silent, but angry, stripped of the outside symbols,but unchanged in the heart.
They are capable of recognizing the grim truths of the Civil War and still finding that which was noble in the men that fought it.
If they are denied a voice and only offered a knee jerk reaction , then rest assured that you will receive the same someday when your archetypes fall out of favor…