I’m not a history buff. I won’t even claim to like studying historical events. But when I’m traveling, I do appreciate absorbing historical sites and monuments.
For me, it has nothing to do with the past. Seeing a landmark placed in a specific spot to cement a significant event touches the part of me that realizes time is limited. Life is a river rushing me ever toward the sea of eternity.
But these monuments are like a boulder in the river.
A person could rest on them. A person could take a break from paddling against contrary currents. The boulder offers a solid place in the maelstrom.
Of course, I’ve been rafting on the Deschutes River in Maupin, Oregon. A boulder could capsize your raft. It could dump everyone you love into the foaming mess of whitewater, eager to devour you…or at least scrape you along the sharp and unforgiving stones of the riverbed.
Recently, my husband and I traveled to Florida for a couples’ retreat. The retreat was held at the Renaissance International World Golf in St. Augustine.
After my first ever lunch of Cuban food, we strolled through the historical fort. There was an old Catholic rectory. The governor’s house had been converted to a museum.
Crowds teemed through the unique shop area. Sun beat down from an autumn sky unlike those in Oregon. A fickle breeze lifted clothes that clung to every inch of perspiring skin.
In a park near the marina where traffic backed up because a draw bridge was raised, there was an old depot platform. Several statues and monoliths paid homage to people and events of the past. There was even an old pillar remaining from the Spanish capital that had once occupied this oldest of American cities.
The Monument to Men
One of the monolithic stones, a quite simple piece of plain rock, had been raised to honor those from the city of St. Augustine who gave their lives protecting it during what southerners refer to as The War of Northern Aggression. (That’s the Civil War for those of us who aren’t northerners, but have been blessed to be raised near the end of the Oregon Trail in God’s Country.) *sticks out her tongue at a particular cousin who will be reading this*
Where I live, there are monuments like this to veterans of Vietnam, Korea, World War I and World War II. I believe there’s even a little something for veterans of Desert Storm.
The point of this monument is to memorialize soldiers who fought for their homes. Some of the monuments honor the survivors. The ones that are most poignant to me are the memorials of those who died for the cause.
What person should not be honored for giving their life for a cause?
I don’t recall the exact words. But on a pole to one side of this simple memorial a metal sign had been mounted.
It claimed that there had been some legislation requiring the removal of all landmarks in honor of Confederates in the Civil War. It went on to state that residents petitioned to keep this simple monolith intact and were granted their petition.
Thank you, petitioners. This is what U.S. democracy is supposed to look like.
Better yet, why pass ridiculous laws that do nothing?
I can imagine the very men honored by this monument rolling over in their graves.
“People say we were fighting to keep slaves,” one would say. “I was fighting for freedom.”
“Freedom from a government that wanted to minimize our personal rights,” another says.
Because this war wasn’t fought over a single issue. The largest percentage of men who died had probably never owned a slave, nor would have chose to if they could.
History happened. It’s over. There’s no point in trying to change it.
What is the reason a law might give for tearing down a simple monolithic column in a small park in St. Augustine, Florida? Is there any reason that would be acceptable?
We all know the slogan, “Never forget.” It was painted everywhere from social media to billboards in September. But it had been used decades before for Normandy Beach and Pearl Harbor.
This simple monument reminds us that men died for a cause. Let’s not judge the cause. We weren’t there, and we couldn’t possibly know what what in the hearts as they marched away from their homes and families…never to return.
You and I can attest that politicians say a ton of stuff we don’t agree with. Their words get recorded, and in another fifty years when the next generation reads them, are they going to judge you and I by those words?
Look at the word: history. His story. I write stories for a living, and they are different from the stories other authors of a similar age and gender write. Because they are my stories.
That plain monument asks us to pause for a moment and remember a story: one that cost men in St. Augustine to sacrifice all. Each of them had a personal story, and sadly, those are probably lost.
But the price they paid? It should be remembered. And honored.
Do you like history? What is a historical place you’ve been that impacted you?