Zinke and Rosendale Join The Lost Cause, Voting to Place Confederate Statue at Arlington

Zinke and Rosendale Join The Lost Cause, Voting to Place Confederate Statue at Arlington

This image depicts an African American man joining Confederate troops marching off to war.

Almost immediately after the Civil War, the losers began a propaganda campaign to reframe and rehabilitate white supremacy.  This movement, which is now referred to as the “Lost Cause,” carries on today.  They claim the Civil War was not about slavery. It was a matter of “States Rights” and industrialization in northern states versus a romanticized agrarian South.   Understanding the power of symbols in the public square, advocates of the Lost Cause moved to place monuments to the Confederacy in cities and towns across the country and to name public facilities like schools, parks, streets and highways after leaders of the Confederacy.  All of this to support and promote the institutional racism of Jim Crow and marginalization of African Americans in society.

Most people assume these monuments were placed shortly after the Civil War, but that is not the case.  The monument pictured above was placed in The National Cemetery at Arlington in 1914, almost 50 years after the war ended.  According to the American Historical Association, monuments put in place during this time “were intended, in part, to obscure the terrorism required to overthrow Reconstruction, and to intimidate African Americans politically and isolate them from the mainstream of public life.”  The Confederate monument which was in Women’s Park in Helena was commissioned in 1914 by the Daughters of the Confederacy.  It was replaced in 2017.  

In the 1950s and 1960s, there was another surge in the placement of Confederate monuments across the country in response to the civil rights movement.  For example, after passage of the Civil Rights Act and The Voting Rights Act in the 1960s, 27 monuments dedicated to Confederate soldiers who had fought against “the federal enemy” were installed in Texas.  Of course the Confederate battle flags we see all over Montana (most often next to Trump flags) are part and parcel of the same Lost Cause strategy to defend and protect white supremacy.

In recent years there has been a strong national movement to remove these commemorations to the Confederacy and white supremacy.  The efforts to remove  these symbols and change place names has become a flashpoint for controversy and, in some cases, violence, in many communities.  Since 2017 and the murder of George Floyd, along with the Charleston church shooting and the Unite the Right Rally, 160 monuments across the country have been removed or torn down.

That brings us to Ryan Zinke and Matt Rosendale and their vote to reinstall this monument.  The proposal failed in Congress, but the vote was a slap in the face to the African American community and advocates for equality as they were preparing to celebrate the Juneteenth holiday less than a week away.  Unfortunately dog whistles and race baiting have become the  order of the day among Republican politicians.  And the rhetoric provided by advocates of Lost Cause propagandists that assume the mantle of historical accuracy and patriotic sentiment leaves people confused about the inherent bigotry of their phony facts and rewriting of American history.  Zinke and Rosendale are finely tuned to the negative power of race baiting in the political process.  Even though Rosendale is leaving public office, it should come as no surprise that he would join Ryan Zinke in jumping on this issue in an election year.

In Germany people don’t put up monuments to Adolph Hitler and the Nazi regime.  Is it only in America that we celebrate white supremacist losers?