President Trump's Chief of Staff, John Kelly, sat down for an interview with Fox News recently, and his comments about the Civil War have left many upset.
While chatting about the recent uproar over Confederate monuments, Kelly called Robert E. Lee an "honorable man," and asserted his belief that the "lack of an ability to compromise," and not slavery, "led to the Civil War."
Wow. Gen. John Kelly just said “the lack of ability to compromise led to the Civil War.” Compromise on what, exactly?— Christina Wilkie (@Christina Wilkie)1509417357.0
"Men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand," Kelly said.
"They'll be pulling down the Washington Monument at some point," the interviewer mused. "Oh, I know!" Kelly agreed.
Chief of Staff John Kelly praises Robert E Lee as "honorable man," says "lack of an ability to compromise led to th… https://t.co/rDTyEqWiCy— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar)1509418292.0
Confederate monuments have been at the core of a national conversation on how we treat historical figures from the slave-holding South, with things coming to a head in August during an alt-right rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protect a statue of Lee from being torn down.
The debate has continued to rage on in the subsequent months, with no clear solution on what to do with the various Confederate monuments scattered around the country.
Many on Twitter felt that Kelly's comments about the Civil War continue to deepen the divide between people who embrace the fact that the Civil War was about slavery, and those who don't.
One Twitter user explained that Kelly was part of a generation that was taught the subject differently:
The "both sides were at fault" view was pushed at the end of the war, to help put the country back together— John Prideaux (@John Prideaux)1509449220.0
But no serious historian has bought it since about 1990, so far as I can see. The war was indeed about slavery— John Prideaux (@John Prideaux)1509449399.0
That doesn't excuse Gen Kelly's remarks. But his view of the Civil War is consistent with what his generation was taught at school— John Prideaux (@John Prideaux)1509449494.0
Still, others didn't think it was a good enough excuse for Kelly to perpetuate the false narrative:
It’s irresponsible & dangerous, especially when white supremacists feel emboldened, to make fighting to maintain sl… https://t.co/Hsbtwltcy7— Be A King (@Be A King)1509421104.0
Robert E. Lee was not an honorable man. Kelly’s statements about the Civil War show a surprising lack of knowledge… https://t.co/xTcuhgVdFh— Jon Fortt (@Jon Fortt)1509449774.0
Slavery. It was about slavery. States rights...to own slaves. Lack of an ability to compromise...about slavery. https://t.co/lwIsUTYZne— Justin Gray (@Justin Gray)1509449200.0
Which is to say, it’s a very popular misconception, one many people hold. The issue wasn’t failure to compromise. It was chattel slavery.— Adam Serwer 🍝 (@Adam Serwer 🍝)1509454483.0
Kelly had at least one defender, however, who claimed that Kelly never said that the Civil War wasn't about slavery:
Willful misrepresentation. He never says slavery didn't play a role. https://t.co/0TM0GxJeCc— Mike Bastasch (@Mike Bastasch)1509450868.0
But others felt that as a high-ranking former general, Kelly should be held to a higher standard, especially regarding knowledge of important wars:
It’s entirely appropriate to question this four-star general. (BTW everyone, the answer is slavery. The Civil War w… https://t.co/qwQBTs6SrZ— Kimberly Atkins (@Kimberly Atkins)1509451059.0
A white man can become a four-star general without having to understand why America’s bloodiest war needed to be fo… https://t.co/l4fsJAzVjs— Samuel Sinyangwe (@Samuel Sinyangwe)1509424976.0
The backlash didn't stop Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders from defending Kelly's statements, telling reporters: "All of our leaders have flaws. That doesn’t diminish their contributions to our country, and it certainly can’t erase them from our history. General Kelly was simply making the point that just because history isn’t perfect, it doesn’t mean it’s not our history."
"There are moments that we are going to be a lot less proud of than others," Sanders continued, "but we can’t erase the fact that they happened."
Perhaps. But many believe that we still have the ability choose how we treat those moments as a country.
Please SHARE this with your friends and family.