Today in the Tennessee House of Representatives, HB 2129 passed. Also known as the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act of 2016, this bill would make it more difficulty to remove any ” statue, monument, memorial, nameplate, plaque, historic flag display, school, street, bridge, building, park, preserve, or reserve” which was erected for any military conflict in which the U.S. participated or any historical military figure/event/organization/unit from public property. Essentially, if a publicly displayed monument fell out of favor because of modern perceptions of past events, citizen would only be able to petition the Tennessee Historical Commission for a waiver to remove it.
This bill was met with controversy and mixed feelings. While some believe that publicly honoring historic military figures of our past should not be tampered with because of current events, others have expressed a feeling of outrage or hurt that our government would memorialize such controversial figures that embody what many consider a stain on our history.
Personally I feel that there is a time and place for everything. I agree that we cannot and should not erase the vestiges of our history because it is the reason we are what we are today. I also believe that as the times change, so must we. We must realize that for many these monuments do not simply act as a representation of history but instead serve as a reminder that oppression and bias never left.
I believe that what we honor publicly should be honored but that when a times comes that the meaning of a monument serves as more of a reminder of oppression than a commemoration of a great life that we must respect our citizens and ourselves and consider removing them. I do not know if Tennessee’s historic commission is up to the task. I do not know if their opinions should be representative of a much larger and more diverse Tennessee.
What do you think? With a variety of stops left in the Senate, its not too late to let your opinion be known. To find your state senator click here. For more information about this issue see it’s history here or this article from the Tennessean.