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“What Happened?!” Why Protestors Took Down Silent Sam and What You Can Do

By: Jonathan Harris

It was on this very week one year ago that I embarked on what would become a three hour informal debate with protestors beneath the shadow of the Silent Sam statue at UNC Chapel Hill. I was not sure what I was getting into at the time, but I knew someone had to stand up and say something. Getting angry on social media did not seem to be accomplishing much for me or those on my side of the debate. My goal in confronting the protestors was for myself as much as it was for them. I needed to see them for who they were.

They were indoctrinated, ignorant, malicious, and dangerous. But, as much as their truth suppression had affected them, they were also broken, insecure, lost, and pathetic. Their moral compass off. Their God-given design marred. Their natural tendencies replaced by the unnatural. Yet they were still human and bore the image of their Creator whether or not they believed in Him. Yes they were culprits, but they were also victims of their own beliefs. They may have been my social and political enemy, but they were still my mission field—people I could reach and relate to on a deeper level, because I too, apart from God’s grace, was like them. My purpose in writing this is not to rehash the ins and outs of my three hour exchange. You can read about that here. Since the Silent Sam statue has now been destroyed likely by some of the same protestors I reached out to a year ago, I want to answer a question gnawing at the heart of many on my side of the debate. “What happened?” Not just as it relates to the mob that ripped down Silent Sam, but what happened to our young people? To our culture?

As you may have known, unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last three years, what happened earlier this week is not unique. Countless demonstrations in favor of just about every cause on the “Left” or against every caused deemed to be on the “Right” have been the norm now since directly preceding President Trump’s election. In fact, a little over a year ago some of the same culprits who lawlessly tore down Silent Sam, tore down a Confederate monument in Durham. Our side (i.e. traditional Americans who think the admirable aspects of our heritage are worth preserving) has been pretty good at winning arguments, but we are not winning hearts.

We can generally expose the absurdity of neo-Marxists using history and logic. “No, the Confederacy was not fighting to preserve slavery.” “No, the Founding Fathers were not trying to set up a government of white privilege and misogyny.” “No, Donald Trump is not a white supremacist,” and the list goes on. We back up our counterpoints with data, and can usually corner often younger, arrogant, inexperienced Leftists by applying their own standards to themselves (whether they’re listening close enough to spot their refutation is another story). We have a paradigm for reality that attempts to take into account all the facts, good, bad, and ugly. They usually have a belief based on what their professor told them substantiated by a “NowThis” video that can only survive by actively suppressing facts that do not fit the paradigm.

So why are we not trouncing the opposition? Why do they not beat their swords into plowshares as they are dazzled by our impeccable logic? Why do they continue to attack what they often willfully do not understand. Why the vicious hatred for what we stand for even when we are nice? There are two sides of the coin in answering this question. The first side can be summed up in four words.

Because they hate God.

They kick against the goads of the natural order God has set up. They resent the constraints of gender, hierarchy, and privilege. They seek to rip down anything that reminds them of their station and the responsibility attached to it because on a core level they believe they are able to create their own version of reality in which they are god. They have faith in an egalitarian heaven here on earth. As an example focus on these words inscribed still at the base of Silent Sam.

To the Sons of the University who entered the War of 1861-65 in answer to the call of their country and whose lives taught lessons of their great commander that duty is the sublimest word in the English language.

Obviously no white supremacy here. No racism. But we do find duty and hierarchy. Robert E. Lee’s famous dictum, “Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more, you should never wish to do less,” defines this generation of men. About a year ago the self-crowning sophisticates at Duke University decided to commemorate the vandalism of Lee’s statue, taken off the side of Duke Chapel, by updating their interpretive pamphlet with the idea that the hole left by vandals symbolizes the hole in America’s race relations. However, Lee’s bust sat right next to slaveholding Thomas Jefferson who’s bust was not removed nor was made (yet) to bear the entire burden of America’s race issues. 

Could it be that slavery in and of itself is not really the issue? We traditional Americans know this, but we tend to think those on the progressive side do not—that they are somehow duped into believing the war was “all about slavery.” So many of us start spitting facts at them about Northern complicity, the Morrill Tariff, how the Confederate constitution outlawed the slave trade, etc. and while that may work with many fellow conservatives who actually have been duped, it does not seem to make much of a dent when it comes to social justice warriors.

If you remember nothing else, remember this. Social justice warriors cannot be convinced, they must be converted. I am not suggesting we abandon an intellectual defense of tradition, but I do think we ought understand the real issue so we can expand our focus. The protestors are not reacting against slavery per se. They are reacting against a culture of duty, hierarchy, and privilege—vestiges of which still exist in the Christianity, manners, and paternal nature of the South. Kicking the head of an inanimate statue makes no sense to someone who fails to understand the real issue. The statue is not lifeless to the protestor. It represents something very real, felt more than understood. It may have connections to a broken family, abusive parents, and bad relationships, but more than anything it is connected with God. A God who would allow suffering. You think I am talking about slavery but I am not. I am talking about young men and women who think they do not deserve the hand they have been dealt. Nevertheless, they still seek for meaning in what they have been taught is a meaningless world. Deep down they suppress what they know in their heart of hearts: That the Creator’s meaning on this earth includes inequity and suffering. They cannot attack God directly so they go after the most accessible representation of Him they can get away with destroying. A statue that screams the reality of immaterial absolutes such as honor, declares an individual’s responsibility to his culture, and champions the ideal man from the high point of Christian civilization is a perfect target. Add the allurement of instant media attention (the only concept of meaning many of the social media generation can conceive of) and a police force that is ordered to stand down and you have a recipe for disaster. Intellectual arguments are necessary, but love is essential.

As stated previously, hatred for God is the first side of the coin in answering why many of the young protestors are not persuaded by argument. The second side is a disordered identity. When I met a year ago with the protestors at UNC I noticed two things that stood out to me. The first was that my Christianity was more offensive to the protestors than was my Confederate heritage. The second was that many of the protestors lacked respect for their families or even the concept of family. This came out in both discussion on abortion and of the sins of previous generations. It is not that they disdained the concept of family. Indeed, those who perhaps looked like they might be the descendent of a slave were supposed to be justifiably offended by Silent Sam. But this family connection only served to perpetuate a sense of victimhood. There was no positive family identity with which I could appeal as one who was proud of my Confederate ancestors. The protestors were more than willing to throw their ancestors under the bus and understanding them was of little interest.

Contrast this with the way I was raised, which I think will give us the key to engaging with millennial social justice warriors. I was nurtured into three primary identities two of which were birthrights and one in which God had to call me into (I’ll let you guess which one that was). I was a Christian, a Harris, and an American in that order. These were not my only identities, but they were my primary ones. I was privileged to grow up in a house in which I had stability. My parents loved each other and demonstrated quite well the roles I needed to navigate the world around me and become a man. I knew what a father, husband, wife, and mother were. I was proud of my parents, and by extension I was proud of my family. I was taught what it meant to be a Harris (honesty being the chief virtue), and I was provided with living heroes in my immediate and extended family. My grandfather told me about World War Two, and the older members of my extended family told depression-era stories and passed on folklore. My parents were careful to teach me about heroes of the faith (missionaries, Bible heroes, etc.) and of American history. Obviously Robert E. Lee made it onto that list. So much of what I do whether I’m aware of it or not stems from my identity.

Not so for many of my compatriots. The majority live in what I call a “hormone culture,” the exact opposite of a duty-driven culture. They are lost in this world and many are not even aware of it other than the emptiness they feel inside. They know nothing of real faith, family, or country. Most come from broken homes. The majority have never seen what true love between a husband and wife look like. Insecurity is the norm. They have nothing to take pride in other than their individual abilities. This is the essence of hormone culture. Life becomes about sexual exploits, bodily shape, style of clothing, or some other superficial quality. Some of these young people will carry this attitude into adulthood where their whole identity will be wrapped up in their position (ever meet an arrogant professor at a university?). They have lost the divinely intended connections to faith, family, and country, and therefore have lost accountability, responsibility, and meaning. It is in this environment that the Left offers a devil’s bargain. “Come to us and protest those who have what you do not. Pretend that you have moral authority over them. Make yourself feel justified in your own sins. Ease your conscience for a little while. Take your anger out on those who have more privilege than you. We will make you famous and you will finally have the meaning you’ve been missing.” Of course, just like the original Devil’s bargain (to be like God), the promises do not pan out, which is why the protesting never seems to end.

If you recall, I originally set out to answer the question, “What happened?” It’s actually quite simple. In rejecting divine order and engaging in carnal pursuits the culture  has managed to finally “liberate” itself from it’s own heritage. The obvious next question is, “Can this be remedied?” I actually foreshadowed the answer to this question when I stated, “Intellectual arguments are necessary, but love is essential.” Ask yourself, if you are in a heritage group like the Sons of Confederate Veterans, “How many young people do you see in attendance at your typical meeting?” The likely answer is, “Not many.” Now, I do not pretend to know every circumstance or reason for this being the case, but on a macro level something went wrong. Why is it that our sons are not interested in their own heritage? Could it have something to do with us? I say this as a 29 year old who is fascinated by the stories of American and indeed, Confederate heroes. Were they ever taught, as I was, to take pride in family—to look into the mirror and see generations of men staring back into their face. There’s no substitute for telling the stories. My dear readers, please know this: Culture is not built on arguments, but on stories, and stories are only attractive if there is proper respect for the heroes in them which takes me to my last and final point.

Perhaps most important to this entire discussion is this: We are living in a time when there are no real heroes. The protestors do not see the heroism in a man like Robert E. Lee for reasons previously explained, but do they see a hero in you? Treating a protestor like a dignified human is not something they are used to from opposition. In fact they will probably respect your bravery and sincerity. This is the reason I brought sports drinks to those staging the sit in at UNC last year. I listened to what they said, showed them respect, and I was shown a shocking amount of respect by most of them at the end of our conversation. I know if it were possible I could have carried on a relationship with some of them past our conversation. Most of the younger ones especially are hungry for the relationships they have never had, they just do not know it. Some do not even have a concept of what a home to be proud of looks like because stability to the is a foreign concept. You can be that stability. Sure it takes patience, but true love is worth the work.

I have not touched on the cowardly cops or the corrupt school administration in this post. Let me say this though: We ought to let UNC and Chapel Hill know how upset we are over this. (UNC Police – (919) 962-8100, Mayor’s Office – (919) 968-2743, Office of Chancellor (919) 962-1365, Donate to the Sons of Confederate Veterans Heritage Defense Fund here) There needs to be some righteous indignation toward what amount to a mob of spoiled brats. Justice and love flow together and it is not loving to justify evil activity. If anyone finishes this and gets the impression I am not angry about what happened, they need to read it again. I am angry, but I also have compassion on those whose lives are so pathetic as to find meaning by being out late at night destroying property. We are generally good at the justice side, I’m suggesting, without changing this, we also become good at the compassion side. Here are two parting biblical passages that help me remember that justice will come one day, and it will be from someone greater than me.

“Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,’ says the Lord.”  Romans 12:19

“For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:14

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