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Opinion

Opinion: The view from Charlottesville: Tear down the statue of Robert E. Lee — now

Police stand watch near the statue of Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 13.
(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

To the editor: On Saturday, hundreds of white supremacists descended on Charlottesville, Va., like a biblical plague. Ostensibly these people were protesting the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park, but the purpose of their visitation was baser and their presence viler than that. (“What UVA did wrong when white supremacists came to campus,” Opinion, Aug. 12)

They came to intimidate and to assert their twisted worldview of supremacy. In time, they left, but behind remains a town defiled and dirtied by their presence. It is as though we in Charlottesville need to perform a collective exorcism to rid our streets of the stench of their evil.

I awoke Sunday still saddened and in need of a sense of center. I have long used running as an act of meditation, so I ran. It took me several miles to begin to let go of any portion of my dark feelings. Eventually I passed Emancipation Park, still cordoned off and with a significant police presence. By the time I’d reached the end of my run I knew one thing with certainty: Lee’s statue must go.

We cannot let our city to give sanctuary to any monument that is a touchstone for contemporary hatred. Do we sell the statue? Donate it to a museum? Maybe, but I have a better idea: Let’s melt it into a puddle of bronze and pour it away.

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Dave Krovetz, Charlottesville, Va.

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To the editor: I taught history in Charlottesville in the 1990s. There, I often strolled by the equestrian statue of Lee that has become the contemporary focal point of right-wing veneration and violence.

Erected in the third decade of the 20th century, the Lee monument had far less to do with any remembrance of Civil War valor than it did with the consolidation of a Jim Crow order that oppressed millions and kept Virginia an economic backwater for decades. Today, American fascists have cloaked that bronze horse and rider with an equally dangerous ideology: anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and traitorous to American ideals.

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We need to tear down that statue. More important, we need to revive the spirit of John Brown and other abolitionists in order to defeat the 21st century Confederacy arising in our midst.

Nelson Lichtenstein, Santa Barbara

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