In the Texas Legislature’s summertime march to crush local governance, state Sen. Brandon Creighton’s bill to block removal of Confederate statues appears belly-up as the special session now seems to have ended prematurely. Filed midway through the session, it obviously sought to play to far-right passions of those who champion what others see as a treasonous rebellion bent on keeping black people in chains for generations to come.
And if Creighton’s bill shows up again in the next legislative session — either another costly special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott or the regular session of 2019 — it will serve as a strong indication our state legislators have learned nothing from the deadly conflict that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend.
In a press statement, Sen. Creighton, a Conroe Republican reportedly troubled by discussion about removing the Sam Houston statue from Houston’s Hermann Park, claimed Senate Bill 112 would “protect Texas’ heritage and history. The legislation prevents any historical monument or statue that has existed on public grounds for more than 40 years from being removed, altered or renamed.” Creighton said these statues and monuments are important to Texans: “Texas should not erase history — we should learn from it.”
We agree with Creighton but only up to a point. Monuments — even those honoring men who broke their oaths and rebelled against their country to protect the institution of slavery — can offer teachable moments if enlightened communities recognize their value in chronicling the broader history of our great nation, warts and all. Some communities do so.
By the same token, decisions on whether such monuments should remain in communities should be left to those communities and their locally elected leaders — not short-sighted legislators in far-off Austin. Can one really argue that a monument to the Confederacy should endure in, say, a predominantly African-American community whose very liberty ultimately depended on the defeat of those glorified figures?
This newspaper condemns lawless actions such as the mob destruction of a statue of a Confederate soldier in North Carolina Monday. We believe communities can better address such matters through insightful, nuanced leadership sparking meaningful discussions with constituents, including thoughtful examination of America’s tortuous search for liberty and justice for all. In that sense, and only in that sense, do such Confederate monuments rate careful consideration of preservation.
To our knowledge, Waco lacks any significant Confederate statues beyond historic Oakwood Cemetery — and those stand over the graves of dead who served the Confederacy, then went on to other endeavors, such as Gov. Richard Coke (and his statue has suffered serious vandalism). These should be protected. Of the rest — that’s the province of folks who live in neighborhoods with such memorials and the individuals they elect. Incidentally, the silly campaign to remove slave-holder Sam Houston from Hermann Park turned out to be, as the Houston Chronicle noted, “a farce perpetrated by an alt-right group that had borrowed [its] name from the anti-fascist group, Houston Antifa.” Talk about your fake news.