(June 10) President Trump has taken a morally and historically unacceptable position in saying his administration “will not even consider” the renaming of military bases now named after Confederate generals.

As he did by going out of the way to point out that there were also “very fine people” among the protesters at a neo-Nazi night-time rally that preceded violence in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, Trump needlessly has exacerbated racial tensions without a shred of right reason to guide him.

As is his wont, Trump made his announcement in a series of Tweets, not worth quoting in toto. He specifically mentioned Forts Bragg, Benning, and Hood as among those that absolutely will not be renamed, because “these Monumental and very Powerful Bases [sic] have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a… history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom.”

This is inane. The bases are staging grounds – nothing more, nothing less. Their existence is essential, but their names aren’t. It has never, ever made sense for U.S. military bases to be named after men who served as generals in armed warfare against the United States. John Bell Hood and Braxton Bragg were two of the most consequential generals in the whole Confederate cause, and Henry Benning not only was a general but specifically and vociferously argued in favor of slavery and presided over Georgia’s secession convention.

Why would any nation name its military bases after men who took up arms against it?

Granted, one can argue in favor of historical markers memorializing an exact location where a particular event happened. Some of us, conservative and liberal alike, have argued that at least some statues of Confederate General Robert E. Lee should be repurposed rather than removed, because of numerous historical factors too complicated to discuss here.

Indeed, that is the point: Each statue, memorial, observance, and facility name has a particular history, significance, and context of its own. For the president of the United States to argue not in favor of context or history, but instead to make a blanket assertion that all renamings are off the table, is outlandish…. [The full column is here.]


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