GA State Rep. Tommy Benton should Just. Stop. Talking.

Normally I’d be thrilled to find a lawmaker who’s passionate about historic preservation, but Rep. Benton’s motives seem…well, to say they’re “other than noble” would be putting it charitably:

He flatly asserts the Civil War wasn’t fought over slavery, compares Confederate leaders to the Founding Fathers and is profoundly irritated with what he deems a “cultural cleansing” of Southern history. He also said the Ku Klux Klan, while he didn’t agree with all of their methods, “made a lot of people straighten up.”

No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you.  That’s an elected official defending the KKK in the year 2016.  According to Benton, the Klan “was not so much a racist thing but a vigilante thing to keep law and order.”  And to promote the wearing of festive, pointy-headed costumes, one might add.

Benton’s views are why for years he has pushed legislation that would protect the state’s historical monuments from being marred or moved. This year he is stepping up his efforts with two newly introduced measures, one of which seeks to amend the state constitution to permanently protect the carving of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gens. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson at Stone Mountain.

Aaaannnnnddd this is one reason why it’s hard for conscientious preservationists who prefer to leave historic monuments in their original context to make their case.  There are plenty of folks out there who have no desire to endorse or perpetuate the sentiments these monuments’ creators wanted to express; they just want to leave historic landscapes intact so that we can interpret them as we would a historic home or an artifact.  But with yahoos like Benton running their mouths, it’s easy to assume that the only folks who oppose removing Confederate monuments are racist ignoramuses.  The best thing Rep. Benton could do for historic preservation would be to put as much daylight between himself and other preservationists as possible.

Oh, and he doesn’t think the Civil War was about slavery, because of course he doesn’t.

Benton, a retired middle school history teacher, equates Confederate leaders with the American revolutionaries of the 18th century — fighting a tyrannical government for political independence.

“The war was not fought over slavery,” he said. Those who disagree “can believe what they want to,” he said.

He used to teach middle school history, and now he’s a legislator.  You decide which is more disturbing; I’ll be slamming my forehead against a desk somewhere.



Filed under Civil War, History and Memory

3 responses to “GA State Rep. Tommy Benton should Just. Stop. Talking.

  1. It is really bothersome to see that representative mangle history like he did. It is pretty obvious he is stating his beliefs instead of the facts. You would think that would be a problem for the people he represents, but I would venture a lot of them are not interested in facts, but in what they want to believe.

    Too bad for them that facts don’t give a damn what people believe. I love it when those people say the Civil War was not about slavery. I ask them to prove it. None of them can. That doesn’t bother them in the least bit that they can’t prove their beliefs. They just ignore reality and stick to their fantasies. Cognitive Dissonance at work!

    • Michael Lynch

      I always tell people who deny the link between the Confederacy and slavery to read the secessionists’ own explanations for why they were doing what they were doing.

      • They don’t bother to do that because that would prove them wrong. Being wrong isn’t really a problem with these people because they only care about their beliefs. I find it hilarious that they go to such great lengths to reject the actual facts in order to justify their belief structure.

        Having them read the primary sources is like watching them walk through a rain storm and deny that they are wet as the water drips from their noses. It is blatantly obvious, but they will never admit it.

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