As Confederate monuments go, it’s not flashy or famous. It’s not even that big. A slab of chipped granite surrounding about 30 graves, the monument reads
“In memory of the soldiers of the Confederate States Army who have died or may die on the Pacific coast, Erected by the Confederate Monument Association. Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet. Lest we forget – lest we forget. 1861-1865″
This small, mostly forgotten monument doesn’t sit in a cemetery in deep south Richmond, Atlanta, or Mobile. It’s not even on a battlefield memorial.
It’s in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, right in the center of the godless liberal orgy capital of Los Angeles, California.
During the Civil War, California was a free state, voted for Abraham Lincoln, and sent thousands of volunteers to fight for the Union. But there was a serious secessionist movement in nascent Los Angeles, and it was Southern California that mustered and deployed the only militia from a free state to fight for the Confederacy, the Los Angeles Mounted Rifles.
After the war, veterans from both sides flocked to Los Angeles, with former Confederates establishing the only rest home outside of the south for aging veterans, located in San Gabriel. Those men are buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, and the monument to their service was erected not shortly after the war, but after their deaths, sometime in the 1920’s.
It was just one of a wave of Confederate monuments that went up around the country in the first decades of the 1900s. The Ku Klux Klan was at its zenith, Jim Crow laws were being passed by the bucketful, and Confederate veterans were passing away.
They were memorialized in a wave of shrines, statues, and monuments, a fever of Lost Cause nostalgia that gripped the entire country. And they weren’t just in Southern cemeteries and on battlefields.
Union stalwarts like New York, Ohio, and Illinois erected Confederate monuments. States that weren’t even states during the Civil War, including Montana and Arizona, put up memorials. And nearly a dozen major Army installations were named after Confederate generals, an odd tribute to the leaders of an enemy army that killed as many as 360,000 American soldiers.
The monuments kept going up well into the 21st century. The vast majority are still up. According to The Atlantic, there are as many as 1,500 monuments, state holidays, schools, and shrines all in the name of the Confederacy.
All in the name of an aggressor country that invaded the United States, slaughtered the flower of a generation, and nearly shattered the country in the name of their right to keep humans as property.
It would be unimaginable for other nations to pay tribute to their own invaders this way, no matter which side they’re on.
Yes, there are numerous German cemeteries in World War II enemies like Russia, France, and England. There are Japanese cemeteries in Singapore, which was brutally occupied by Japan. There are even German POWs buried in Texas.
But monuments to German generals in Moscow? Statues of mighty German tanks in Brussels? Chinese schools named after Japanese officers?
None. There aren’t any. The only monument that could even be considered to fall into that category is a tiny statue of a German solider who saved two children from death, erected in a rural Dutch village. And that was so controversial that it had to be put up on a private estate, with private funds.
Likewise, while the Southern states are chockablock with massive public tributes to the men they sent to invade the North and preserve slavery, Axis nations have a much more complex relationship with their war dead.
A memorial to famed German general Erwin Rommel, erected in his birthplaces, has constantly been defaced and protested. A rural German village’s tribute to Luftwaffe head and Nazi war criminal Herman Goering was so embarrassing to the local government that it was removed. And Japan’s biggest shrine to its war dead is a constant source of controversy, due to is enshrinement of 1,600 men considered war criminals.
The Axis nations have spent seven decades trying to deal with their past, facing up to it, paying tribute to its victims, and doing everything possible (even abrogating free speech, in the case of Germany) to prevent it from happening again.
And they haven’t been perfect, by any means. Japan’s maritime self-defense force, for example, still flies a variant of the Rising Sun, and Germany’s army is still known as the Wehrmacht, as it was during the war.
But 70 years later, these countries understand what their ancestors did, and display nationalistic little pride in it.
Seven decades after the bloodiest gash on the American soul stopped bleeding, however, the American people literally couldn’t stop paying tribute to it. And they’re still doing it, and defending what’s been done. The statues stay up, and their removal is protested. One protest, in Charlottesville this weekend, killed three people.
As the LA Times wrote about the Hollywood Forever Confederate monument, “Los Angeles has a Confederate memorial problem.”
It’s not just Los Angeles. It’s the country. It’s everywhere. And paying tribute to its own invaders seems to be a uniquely American problem.