I look upon General Lee as a mentor and a friend: Obviously we did not know each other personally, but during my years of fascination with the Civil War I read enough about him to place him in the same degree of other heroes of mine, such as Abraham Lincoln or the poet Robert Burns, who took hold deep in my heart and mind, despite the unjust criticisms they dealt with throughout their lives (or maybe partly because of that injustice).
Gen. Lee was asked by Abraham Lincoln to assume command of the Union Army, but after reflection decided that he could not honorably desert his native state of Virginia. He remained an advocate of states rights; in my view even today he is entitled to the honor and dignity that was vested in him until the recent madness that has afflicted our sense of American history.
Lee was universally admired by those who fought for him and against him.
Much in the description of Chesterson whom I recently quoted here, Robert E. Lee was the consummate Southern gentleman, a model of integrity, dignity, courage and gallantry. There are few other true Americans who arch above him.
In 1865, he assumed the presidency of Washington College, which in time became Washington and Lee College, and for the rest of his life, dedicated himself to the task of national reconciliation. The notion of Lee's racism and hatred is so false and detestable that I have only scorn for anyone who makes that argument.
I honor the legacy of General Lee, and many other men who fought for the Confederacy, not because they were men fighting for a just cause, but because they were mortal men striving to do what they believed by honorable lights was right, and, inevitably, like so many other good men who have accepted the mantle of difficult leadership, ultimately failed.
It is the mission and plight of the current radicals, raging much like the Taliban in the Middle East, to destroy monuments that reflect culture and history they do not like. Given license, they cannot rest from their ideological passion until their targets are erased from our history. And if successful, what shall they have gained? Can we actually bind up our wounds as a nation by denying its past.
Where and when does the purge end?
What about Washington? Jefferson? Madison? Jackson?
Are we now testing the power of mob mentality?
Dr. John O. Hunter
(Dr. Hunter is the President Emeritus of College of Lake County, Ill, President Emeritus of SUNY Alfred State College, Founding President of Penn Highlands College in Pa., and Distinguished Phi Theta Kappa President of West Virginia Northern Community College)