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Judge past leaders in context of times they lived in

No thoughtful American could observe the events of the last few months and not be horrified at the sight of young Black men and women being murdered by rogue police officers. That behavior is reprehensible and should be repudiated in the courts. Does it justify the renaming of streets and the removal of statues? Yes and no.

The distinction? Civil War-era politicians and generals fought to destroy the union in order to preserve slavery. Why anyone would think memorializing these men was a good idea is incomprehensible. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? They institutionalized democracy at a time when it did not exist. It is true that it was imperfectly applied because people of color, and women, were excluded until much later.

Washington and Jefferson were products of their times. Context is important. Slavery was normal in the late 1790s. Reprehensible but normal. Erasing the memory of the people responsible for development of a government that still aspires to be "of the people, by the people and for the people" would be wrong. Let's hope honoring those men for the goodness of their body of work, while acknowledging the limitations of their times, shall never perish from the Earth.

Eric Smith




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