Wokism at Arlington

Arlington National Cemetery is the latest casualty of woke cancel culture

I recently learned that the “Naming Commission,” initially proposed by Congress in 2021 to strip military bases of Confederate leader names has just made the Arlington National Cemetery the latest casualty of the military’s woke cancel culture. 

Although the primary mission of the panel was to wipe references to the Confederacy from the U.S. military, it is now painfully evident the panel of eight did not stop with renaming.  Their third and final report issued in September 19, 2022 includes the removal of a 108-year-old Confederate monument from Arlington National Cemetery. 

Has the panel overstepped its bounds to become like the busybodies in a homeowner’s association eager to punish others for minor failings to cover up their own?  And whatever happened to earlier political promises that monuments in cemeteries would not be disturbed?  No firm date is known to implement the recommendations, but since this commission is part of the Defense Authorization Act, most should be completed before or during 2024.

Although it happened on his watch, don’t blame Trump for this mess.  Fox News noted that “Congress created the commission in 2020 after lawmakers overrode a veto by President Trump, who opposed renaming bases that honor Confederate leaders.”  Obviously, it took a bipartisan vote in both houses to override a presidential veto. 

To understand this overwhelming support in Congress, one must remember what was going on at the time.  The statue toppling, along with destructive and deadly BLM and Antifa riots following George Floyd’s death was still going on.  Therefore, the bipartisanship needed to overcome Trump’s veto was most likely due to virtue-signaling to appease and keep the mob away.

Change.org adds more details about what was going on at the time this legislation originated:

“The removal of monuments and statues has not and does not improve civil rights issues. A Presidential Document by the Executive Office of the President filed on 07/02/2020 reveals the government is perfectly aware that a trend of indiscriminate attacks on historical sites and figures is gaining steam across the country while city and state officials are unable to properly contain or counter the crimes.”

Some helpful information about the memorial were found in the Charleston Athenaeum Press, a site dedicated to correcting woke misrepresentations of southern history.  Following is their description how and why the memorial came to be placed in the Arlington National Cemetery:

“Remember, the Confederate Memorial was the idea of Union veteran and President of the United States, William McKinley. It was enthusiastically approved by Congress. Another president, William Howard Taft, spoke at the laying of the cornerstone. A third president, Woodrow Wilson, spoke at the dedication ceremony June 4, 1914 as did Union and Confederate veterans.” (snip)

“The Confederate Memorial was designed and constructed by internationally renowned Jewish sculptor Moses Ezekiel, himself a Confederate veteran, a graduate of VMI. He is buried with three other Southerners at the base of his beautiful monument thus making it their headstone but also the grave markers for 462 other Confederate graves arranged in concentric circles around the monument and an intergral (sic) part of the memorial as was intended by Congress, three presidents, and veterans North and South.”

(If you want a more complete review of the history of the monument and the commission, this nine-minute video from the Abbeville Institute is recommended viewing.)

The complete Naming Commission final report was submitted to Congress with all recommendations. The information specific to the memorial in Arlington Cemetery is in part III on pages 15 and 16.  Following are the recommended actions:

“The statue atop of the monument should be removed.”  

“All bronze elements on the monument should be deconstructed, and removed, preferably leaving the granite base and foundation in place to minimize risk of inadvertent disturbance of graves.

“The work should be planned and coordinated with the Commission of Fine Arts and the Historical Review Commission to determine the best way to proceed with removal of the monument.”

“The Department of Army should consider the most cost-effective method of removal and disposal of the monument’s elements in their planning.”

As someone born into a career Army officer’s family and serving myself in the Army as an officer during the Vietnam era and a long career as a DoD civilian employee, the news that bases would be renamed was upsetting, but I did not speak out against it publicly. 

However, seeing the damage done in Richmond, Virginia after local leadership caved to the woke mob and encouraged the removal of the impressive Confederate statues that once lined formerly scenic Monument Avenue provided for me an example of what can happen from hasty emotion-based virtue-signaling decisions.  This piece of lost local history can never be replaced.

The news of the commission’s recommendations to destroy a beautiful historical memorial in Arlington Cemetery was the final straw that compelled me to share my objections publicly.  I can only ask that the military and/or Congress intervene to stop the endless woke virtue-signaling and leave this magnificent monument alone so at least the dead buried in Arlington National Cemetery can continue to rest in peace. 

Image: Tim Evanson

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