by Diane Rufino, August 16, 2021
Friends, fellow parents, concerned Pitt County (NC) residents, please check out my friend Jerry McRoy’s excellent article on his newly-created blogsite “J Man’s Thoughts.” The article is titled “County Commissioners, Their Constituents, and Their Monuments.”
The article provides a wonderful overview of the Pitt County Confederate Soldiers Monument, a facially-neutral memorial which was dedicated to the community in 1914, in memory of those Confederate soldiers from Pitt County who gave their last full measure. A little over a year ago, on June 15, 2020. 7 of our 9 Pitt County Commissioners voted to remove it from its permanent location, which was in front of the Pitt County Courthouse, and have it eventually relocated. A Relocation Committee was formed to include members of the Pitt County Board and at least 3 civilian members, one of them being Jerry McRoy. During the middle of the night, on June 22-23, the monument was lifted off its foundation (by a crane secured by Sheriff Paula Dance), with pictures and video footage taken of the nefarious nocturnal action. The foundation was then demolished with a jackhammer (again at the instruction of Sheriff Dance). The monument was apparently put into storage, and yet, the County Commissioners have refused to let the public know where it is being stored.
Over one year later, the Commissioners still have not found a new (statutorily-required) replacement location for the monument and so it is still being held in storage. The removal, storage, and eventual relocation has been estimated to upwards of $100,000, to be borne by the taxpayers, of course.
To be clear, the 7 County Commissioners who voted hastily to remove the monument acted in violation of the law. The most flagrant violation involves General Statute G.S. § 100-2.1, “Protection of Monuments, Memorials, and Works of Art.” There are many requirements and conditions that apply to the potential removal of a “monument of remembrance,” which clearly the Confederate Soldiers Monument is, each of which has been ignored and /or violated by the 7 Commissioners.
Why do I say the monument is “facially-neutral”? I say this because the Confederate Soldiers Monument has the simple inscription: (on one side) “Dedicated to Our Confederate Dead” and “Erected by the People of Pitt County in Grateful Remembrance of the Courage and Fortitude of Her Confederate Soldiers,” And on the other side , the inscription reads: “Theirs was not to make reply, Theirs was not to reason why. Theirs was but to do and die.” It is clearly a monument reflecting an important period in our American and North Carolina history, as well as being a monument of remembrance. It makes no mention of slavery and makes no mention of the reason or reasons for the War of Northern Aggression. It is simply a statue memorializing those Confederate soldiers from Pitt County who died with honor and valor.
I’m sure most people here in Pitt County (and most likely the state in general) don’t know the circumstances of North Carolina’s secession and its joining the Confederacy. North Carolina resisted the secession movement. She did not want to secede. In her convention to take up the issue, most of its representatives flat-out refused to secede. 9 southern states had already seceded, with South Carolina being the first. Then Fort Sumter happened. It was a slimy scheme by President Lincoln to force South Carolina to fire upon northern ships (by the way, no one was killed) in order to give him the “crisis” he needed to wage war on the Confederate states. Lincoln then had a wire sent to the governor of the remaining southern states, including NC, demanding that they supply troops to join with the Army of the North to fight their neighbors. This was something that North Carolina could not do. In her view, the federal government was a common government (for the “benefit” of all states); it would never coerce one state to take up arms against another. That would be unconscionable. And so, NC’s governor John Ellis wrote back: “You will get no troops from North Carolina.” And that is when (and the only reason that) North Carolina seceded from the Union and joined with the Confederate States of America. [You can see and read Gov. Ellis’ actual letter here: https://digital.ncdcr.gov/digital/collection/p15012coll8/id/2441/ ]
A certain segment of Greenville would have you believe that this monument, which is honestly no different from any headstone in any cemetery, terrorizes them, intimidates them, dishonors them, is racist, reminds them of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, is a testament to white supremacy, and all the other “catch phrases” we hear to keep the racism narrative alive and well. (I can’t speak to racism because I’ve only seen one case of it in my entire life, but I know it is a product of the human heart – a dark and un-Christian heart, which is a product of human nature. No one can change that. But we need to remember that no one race has a copyright on discrimination. This country has treated almost all races at one point or another in a discriminant manner. The question was must ask is this: Are there laws to protect those who were previously discriminated against? The answer is YES. There most certainly are. In fact, the laws go above and beyond. Some have been passed, and policies instituted, for the purpose to remedy past discrimination.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”
And Nelson Mandela said: “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
We may not have been a perfect country when the Constitution was adopted. Try as they did and as they wished, abolishing slavery with the new union was not possible (thanks to Georgia and South Carolina). Forming a union of states for strength and security was more important than abolishing a sinful institution. But the most wonderful thing about the united States is that we became a “more perfect union” over the years because we had the most enlightening of values and the most inspiring of founding documents to begin with. Our collective story is a story of working towards our “more perfect union.”
But again, a certain segment of society chooses not to see things that way. They choose to point fingers and lay blame. A national sin does not continue to remain a national sin if it has been remedied. The remedy becomes the new story.
Racism is not found in a facially-neutral statue, a monument, or memorial. It stems from a darkened heart and a diseased mind. I resent those members of our community who impute a racist meaning to the monument and I resent them for characterizing it as a testament to white supremacy. Most of all, I resent those 7 County Commissioners (aka, “County Criminals,” aka “County Cowards,” aka “The Criminal Syndicate Known as the Pitt County Board of Commissioner”) for taking the low road, giving in to threats of potential violence (because that’s how certain groups express themselves), dishonoring those Confederate soldiers who died defending their homes and the state they loved, and dishonoring the grand legacy that North Carolina rightfully earned.
They missed a perfect opportunity to learn the truth about the War of Northern Aggression (aka, the War to Prevent Southern Independence, aka, The War Between the States, aka, the “Civil War,” which is the most unfitting term) and to impart that truth upon the uninformed citizens of Pitt County. There is honor in that truth. An issue that was meant to divide us along skin color could have turned into an opportunity to bring us together by reminding everyone of the righteous reasons for North Carolina’s secession and for her fighting against the North’s purely political agenda.
Anyway, please read Jerry’s article. He goes into a whole lot more on this issue. It’s posted here at this link: https://jmcroyearthlinknet.wordpress.com/…/county…/
If this issue means anything to you, please get involved in holding the Pitt County Commissioners accountable and forcing them to put the monument back in its rightful place. History would implore you to act.
Refer to an article (“Confederate Statue Removal Soon After Monday Night Vote”) published by WITN on the night of the infamous vote, June 15, 2020. Referenced at: https://www.witn.com/content/news/Pitt-County-Board-of-Commissioners-vote-to-remove-Confederate-statue-571280041.html
Pitt County Confederate Soldiers Monument, NCPedia. Referenced at: https://www.ncpedia.org/monument/pitt-county-confederate