One of the best known and most often quoted passages in Scripture comes from the book of Ecclesiastes. This verse was made even more familiar to us by the great Pete Seeger, who wrote the song “Turn, Turn, Turn.” “Turn, Turn, Turn” was recorded and rose to #1 on the charts in 1965 by The Birds: the band featuring David Crosby, Gene Clark, Michael Clarke, Chris Hillman, and Jim McGuinn. You know the song and the text: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
Without question, the author of Kohelet (the Hebrew title of the Book of Ecclesiastes) was absolutely correct. We know from our own experiences and interactions with those around us that there is an appropriate time for everything. That’s both a fact of life and a lesson each of us learns as we walk the road of living.
I share these thought with you because the issue of the Talbot Boys Statue, the monument dedicated to those individuals from Talbot County who were a part of the Confederacy and fought in the Confederate army, has again been addressed by the Talbot County leadership. The issue of moving the statue is presently being discussed and considered by the elected officials on the County Council.
At the June 23rd County Council meeting, Council President, Corey Pack said, “the county has reached a time that the statue be removed...” President Pack is absolutely correct. As we say in Hebrew, “haz’man higeah — the time has arrived.”
Below is a copy of a letter I wrote to the County Council five years ago, in support of moving the statue. Understand something, I did not suggest that the statue be destroyed...I felt then and I still believe that this statue should be removed from its present location in the front of the County Courthouse.
“This epistle will communicate to you my unequivocal support for removing the Talbot Boys statue from its present location and placing it in a location more appropriate for such a monument.
Let’s be clear about the function and purpose of monuments and statues. Statues and monuments possess evocative power. Statues stand in testimony to the intrepid souls who shape our beliefs, sculpt our ideologies and craft our world view. But, they do not stand silently. When we place monuments on sacred ground we do so not only to memorialize individuals of influence and efficacy but also to communicate and perpetuate the ideas, ideologies, principles, notions beliefs and political dogma championed by those memorialized by a statue. We communicate, clearly and unambiguously, who we are and what we believe through the prominence of our monuments. And make no mistake, those messages are powerful, enlightening, instructive, evocative and long-lasting.
With this as background, let us be clear about what that Talbot Boys statue represents. That monument represents a political system and a set of beliefs that were dehumanizing and hateful. That statue, with its cleverly sculpted flag, memorializes sedition and venerates an insurrection against the United States by people committed to the oppression, subjugation and degradation of another group of human beings. That monument represents those states and those so committed to the continuation of slavery and the benighted notion of white supremacy that they would foment war, kill their neighbors and brothers and die themselves rather than reject their own bigotry and hatred. Make no mistake, when I look at that statue, its flag and the letters C.S.A. I see a symbol of failure, of an evil cause appropriately and necessarily defeated. That monument stands as testimony to hate, racism and the arrogance of human conceit that always seeks to hide evil behind moral half truths and political distortions. And, I wonder about the inner beliefs and core values of those who argue vehemently to keep it where it is. What motivates them to do so?
That statue, standing as it now does, on the courthouse grounds sends a message and suggests to all who see it that we as a community, by its very presence on that spot, embrace the message it silently communicates. That statue does not represent anything I admire, desire or respect. For these reasons and more, it’s time to move the Talbot Boy statue.
One last point, to those who would argue that the statue serves as testimony to the bravery and sacrifice of those who fought, consider this. While, no doubt, there were individuals who fought tenaciously and resolutely, individual action can never serve as moral justification for a wrong and unrighteous cause. That statue speaks not to the valor of those fighting but rather amplifies the insidious and indefensible worldview which it represents.
Do the right and righteous thing, move the statue.
Rabbi Hyman is the spiritual leader of Temple B’nai Israel in Easton.