Youngkin and the Reconciliation Monument
Though he never claimed to be a populist, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin has ridden the wave of public anger against hostile school boards pushing radical race and gender ideologies. As I noted in a previous commentary, Youngkin’s selection of leftist advisers and personnel for his gubernatorial team sent up warning signs of danger ahead for Virginians. Now his actions concerning the removal of the 109-year-old Reconciliation Monument in Arlington National Cemetery confirm that Youngkin is no conservative.
The now disbanded Congressional Naming Commission targeted for removal the Reconciliation Monument that was conceived and built with the sole purpose of healing the wounds of the Civil War and restoring national harmony. Moses Ezekiel, a world-renowned American sculptor and first Jewish cadet at Virginia Military Institute (VMI), was chosen to create the memorial to mark Section 16, the burial plot for the reinterred graves championed by President William McKinley, and to commemorate the reunification of North and South. The memorial became the grave marker for Ezekiel, who is buried at its foot. Some historians question whether the removal of the monument is the first step in a larger, more sinister plan that begins with the removal of the centerpiece of the Confederate Circle with eventual mass exhumation.
Numerous articles by historians Scott S. Powell and Ann H. McLean, as well as former senator Jim Webb’s recent WSJ piece, illuminate the importance of this memorial in healing North and South divisions. On a basic level, the indecency of removing a headstone in our foremost cemetery calls to mind the Nazi’s destruction of Jewish graves in Czechoslovakia in World War II and gives one pause about Youngkin’s fitness for high office. What American leader ignores previous presidential customs in honoring crucial healing of the nation, allowing Marxist revisionism to prevail?
A Freedom of Information Act document reveals that Youngkin pre-negotiated with Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin to move the monument to state property in Virginia.
Youngkin’s March 31, 2023 letter to Austin shows an apologetic attitude and historical ignorance of the war: “The sculpture by Moses Ezekiel is not like any other Civil War monument in the country. In fact, without the signage erected by Arlington Cemetery, I am confident that many visitors would not know that the sculpture is reflective of that terrible war fought to end the tyranny of slavery and would come away with the feeling that they have visited a solemn burial ground, not a celebration or glorification of war or the Confederacy. As you probably know, the sculpture is not of a charging warrior with a sword, or a commanding general on horseback.”
Youngkin’s June 29, 2023 letter to Austin requests moving the memorial to VMI’s Virginia Museum of the Civil War: “It is my hope that the Department of the Army will work with my office to make certain that this iconic work of art by one of the world's premier sculptors will be moved to the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park in Virginia.”
In September, VMI announced its acceptance of the memorial at its historical park. This should trigger a red alert since VMI has already surrendered to Marxist demands. Although it had committed to keeping the Confederate “Stonewall” Jackson Monument at the front of the barracks, VMI acceded to Marxist allegations of systemic racism and relocated the monument to the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park.
Will Marxists next demand all Confederate assets in VMI’s historical park be removed and destroyed or placed out of public view as they have been elsewhere?
While Marxists aggressively removed all Confederate memorials from the famous Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, Youngkin ignored the public furor and meekly allowed the cultural purge.
Powell and McLean argue that removal of the Reconciliation Monument is aligned with the woke agenda to use race warfare to divide and destroy America. Alphonse-Louis Vinh echoes this in his letter to the Pentagon EIS Committee, “Don’t Become Vietnam.” Vinh cautions, “Totalitarian societies establish their power by cancelling and negating the actual history and heritage of a nation.” They “replace street names, tear down monuments, re-invent textbooks, create alternative historical realities in the media, cancelling the true past in order to create an interminable Present that suits their need for complete power and ideological control.” Does this sound familiar?
Exercising ruthless control, Vietnamese Communists have outlawed any memorials to honor South Vietnamese military who defended the Republic of South Vietnam. Trying to publicly fly a South Vietnamese flag is “persona non grata like the Confederate Battle Flag is today in America.”
The parallel is striking. Just as Communists refuse to allow any memorials to South Vietnamese military in their own country in their own region, so Marxists refuse to allow American soldiers from the South to be honored in their region. Anything connected with the South and Confederate memorials, including flags, are evil and must be destroyed using any means necessary.
Hundreds of Confederate memorials have been removed, but removing the historic Reconciliation Monument will be the ultimate win for cancel culture. It signals that our own government is complicit in cancelling our historical memory so they can impose total control and their ideology.
Youngkin’s failure to preserve the heritage of Virginia may well impact his political future. Defend Arlington Committee announced a poll that found Virginians want Youngkin to stop the destruction of the Reconciliation Monument. Kaplan Strategies, a non-partisan research firm which funded and conducted a random survey, found that 74 percent of those surveyed believe Youngkin should take action to prevent the removal of the monument. Of that 74 percent, 59 percent believe Youngkin must be held responsible for the monument’s removal if he fails to take action to prevent it.
By a margin of 44-11 percent, voters indicated they would be less likely to support Youngkin again at the ballot box if he fails to intercede to prevent the monument’s removal.
Image: Tim Evanson