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Comparing Lee to Washington is simply, factually wrong.

Posted by on Aug. 16, 2017 at 11:15 AM
  • 11 Replies
2 moms liked this

Fact Check: 'Whatabout' Those Other Historical Figures? Trump's Question, Answered

The statue of Thomas Jefferson at the Jefferson Memorial at sunrise. President Trump rhetorically questioned whether statues of Jefferson, Washington should come down because they were slave owners.

J. David Ake/AP

"So this week it's Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson's coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?.... [Jefferson] was a major slave owner. Are we going to take down his statue?" —President Donald J. Trump, August 15, 2017


The president made this statement Tuesday while jabbing at reporters over a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., where white nationalists protested the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

And he used one of his standard rhetorical techniques, "whataboutism."

While defending the protesters and claiming that they weren't all white supremacists, he changed the subject to attack others. "What about the alt-left?" he said, when asked about the white nationalist alt-right. ("Alt-left" is a term seemingly invented for whataboutism, making liberals seem like the moral equivalents of the "alt-right," whose members coined that term themselves.)

"Are we going to take down statues of George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson?" Trump asked, given Washington and Jefferson's slave ownership. He added, "You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?"

Well, let's take on those questions. The president is not the first person to ask.

Washington did own slaves — and does not get a pass for freeing them at the end of his life. Jefferson was a "major slave owner," too — and is even more to be criticized, because he understood that slavery was wrong, calling it a "moral depravity" and a "hideous blot."

Nor were they alone: James Madison was a slave owner; even Ben Franklin owned two slaves before the practice was banned in Pennsylvania. Slavery was so deeply entrenched in the economy that it touched nearly everyone who lived before the Civil War, even those who did not own a slave.

So "whatabout" them? Must they all go if Robert E. Lee goes?

Not necessarily, because they are not all the same.

Some figures stood for something larger. Washington guided the foundation of a country that eventually preserved freedom for all. Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence, in which a single phrase, "that all men are created equal," became a hammer that later generations would use to help smash the chains of slavery.

It's possible to make a case for honoring such men, so long as we are also honest about their flaws. They were participants in a great experiment in self-government, which has expanded over time to embrace more and more people of all races, not to mention women, too.

So "whatabout" Lee? What did he stand for?

Lee, who is connected by marriage to the family of Washington, resigned from the Army to fight against his country, on the Confederate side in the Civil War.

Then and later, Confederate apologists dismissed the idea that they were fighting to defend slavery. They said they were fighting for "states' rights," or against Northern oppression. But conflict over slavery was what drove the fight for states' rights and divided the country for years before the war. The election of Abraham Lincoln, a president who was critical of slavery, triggered the rebellion.

And the Confederate vice president, Alexander H. Stephens, was more frank than others in stating the rebels' aims. In an 1861 speech, he declared that the "cornerstone" of the Confederacy was "that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition."

Other Confederates may have fought for different reasons; it is said that Lee went over to the rebel side, because he could not bear to fight against his native Virginia. But Stephens' "cornerstone" speech accurately describes the larger cause that Lee willingly served, and generally accepted: a drive to overturn the idea of equality, which Stephens called an "error." This cause was the reason that many Confederate statues were built in the era of Jim Crow segregation: aside from southern "heritage" or "pride," many explicitly represented white supremacy.

There is still a case to be made for Lee as a brilliant general, who won battle after battle and kept his army together for years, even though they were massively outnumbered and undersupplied. He's a significant figure in the American story.

Ulysses S. Grant, the general who defeated him, gave the best epitaph of Lee, saying the Confederate general "had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought."

But let's be honest. In Charlottesville over the weekend, the "Unite the Right" protesters chanted "blood and soil;" others listened to Richard Spencer, who has called for an all-white homeland. Members of one group, Identity Evropa, "seem to revel in goading counter-protesters into violent clashes," according to a profile of a member on KQED. Counter-protesters were indeed goaded into clashes — and a car, allegedly driven by an Ohio man on the white-nationalist side, drove into them, killing a woman.

Is it remotely possible that Spencer and Identity Evropa and the driver of a Dodge Challenger came to defend the statue of Lee because of his skill in military tactics and strategy?

To have such defenders says a lot about the cause that Lee represented. To have the president of the United States compare Lee to Washington is simply, factually wrong.

by on Aug. 16, 2017 at 11:15 AM
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Replies (1-10):
truthhurts88
by on Aug. 16, 2017 at 11:27 AM
Not wrong at all. both men owned slaves, both men fought in a rebellion both men are an American treasure. get over it! Both men are a part of history stop trying to change history because it hurts your little snowflake feelings.
iwashere
by on Aug. 16, 2017 at 11:45 AM
1 mom liked this

Your argument is called a false equivalence. It happens when one shared trait between two subjects is used to show equivalence, where it does not exist.

For example, Washington, Jefferson owned slaves. Lee owned slaves. Therefore they are the same. Except that they are not. Owning slaves (and being in the army for Washington and Lee only) are the only commonalities they have. So your argument is pretty much like saying "iwashere and truthhurts88 both comment on Cafemom, therefore they both are the same or equivalent."

Obviously this is not true, we are not the same, simply because we have one thing in common, commenting on Cafemom.

Quoting truthhurts88: Not wrong at all. both men owned slaves, both men fought in a rebellion both men are an American treasure. get over it! Both men are a part of history stop trying to change history because it hurts your little snowflake feelings.


truthhurts88
by on Aug. 16, 2017 at 11:47 AM
You are adding to what I said to make your point which cancels out your point I never said anything about Jefferson I never even mentioned him.
Quoting iwashere:

Your argument is called a false equivalence. It happens when one shared trait between two subjects is used to show equivalence, where it does not exist.

For example, Washington, Jefferson owned slaves. Lee owned slaves. Therefore they are the same. Except that they are not. Owning slaves (and being in the army for Washington and Lee only) are the only commonalities they have. So your argument is pretty much like saying "iwashere and truthhurts88 both comment on Cafemom, therefore they both are the same or equivalent."

Obviously this is not true, we are not the same, simply because we have one thing in common, commenting on Cafemom.

Quoting truthhurts88: Not wrong at all. both men owned slaves, both men fought in a rebellion both men are an American treasure. get over it! Both men are a part of history stop trying to change history because it hurts your little snowflake feelings.

Reading.Rainbow
by Sif on Aug. 16, 2017 at 11:49 AM
6 moms liked this

One built America, one tried to destroy it.

One is a Founding Father, one is a Traitor...

Quoting truthhurts88: Not wrong at all. both men owned slaves, both men fought in a rebellion both men are an American treasure. get over it! Both men are a part of history stop trying to change history because it hurts your little snowflake feelings.


LancesMom
by Gold Member on Aug. 16, 2017 at 11:53 AM
2 moms liked this

Perfectly said!


Quoting Reading.Rainbow:

One built America, one tried to destroy it.

One is a Founding Father, one is a Traitor...

Quoting truthhurts88: Not wrong at all. both men owned slaves, both men fought in a rebellion both men are an American treasure. get over it! Both men are a part of history stop trying to change history because it hurts your little snowflake feelings.



LancesMom
by Gold Member on Aug. 16, 2017 at 12:06 PM
1 mom liked this

Saw this on fb the other day and saved it because I knew at some point I could use it here!

And because they both owned slaves does not make these two the same. 

Lee was a traitor. He chose to preserve slavery.

Quoting truthhurts88: Not wrong at all. both men owned slaves, both men fought in a rebellion both men are an American treasure. get over it! Both men are a part of history stop trying to change history because it hurts your little snowflake feelings.


romalove
by Roma on Aug. 16, 2017 at 12:09 PM
2 moms liked this

No

Confederates are NOT American treasures.  They were traitors to America who fought to keep other people enslaved.

I hope that doesn't hurt your little snowflake feelings.  

Quoting truthhurts88: Not wrong at all. both men owned slaves, both men fought in a rebellion both men are an American treasure. get over it! Both men are a part of history stop trying to change history because it hurts your little snowflake feelings.


AnotherKim
by Silver Member on Aug. 16, 2017 at 12:09 PM
2 moms liked this

No-one is trying to change history. We will never forget that half of the country fought for racist values, and LOST.

Quoting truthhurts88: Not wrong at all. both men owned slaves, both men fought in a rebellion both men are an American treasure. get over it! Both men are a part of history stop trying to change history because it hurts your little snowflake feelings.


LGAll65215
by on Aug. 16, 2017 at 12:28 PM
1 mom liked this
It's about SLAVERY. There are no " snowflake feelings" involved when we object to it.
The only " snowflakes" in this situation are the racists who can't handle being shown how despicable they are.


Quoting truthhurts88: Not wrong at all. both men owned slaves, both men fought in a rebellion both men are an American treasure. get over it! Both men are a part of history stop trying to change history because it hurts your little snowflake feelings.
iwashere
by on Aug. 16, 2017 at 12:31 PM
1 mom liked this

Jefferson is part of the OP. so I put him in there. If you take him out, it's still the same argument.

It's obvious you don't understand what an argument is and do not comprehend logic. Adding to something to make a point doesn't "cancel" an argument, it enhances and explains it. Nobody debates using single sentences. They build upon their arguments.

But your ignorance doesn't change that Washington and Lee are two different people. One fought for, served and was president of his country. And one was a traitor.

Quoting truthhurts88: You are adding to what I said to make your point which cancels out your point I never said anything about Jefferson I never even mentioned him.
Quoting iwashere:

Your argument is called a false equivalence. It happens when one shared trait between two subjects is used to show equivalence, where it does not exist.

For example, Washington, Jefferson owned slaves. Lee owned slaves. Therefore they are the same. Except that they are not. Owning slaves (and being in the army for Washington and Lee only) are the only commonalities they have. So your argument is pretty much like saying "iwashere and truthhurts88 both comment on Cafemom, therefore they both are the same or equivalent."

Obviously this is not true, we are not the same, simply because we have one thing in common, commenting on Cafemom.

Quoting truthhurts88: Not wrong at all. both men owned slaves, both men fought in a rebellion both men are an American treasure. get over it! Both men are a part of history stop trying to change history because it hurts your little snowflake feelings.



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