Mr. Mayor and Honorable Members of Council:
Because the proposal to remove the Confederate Memorial at Court and High Streets appears to have ignited public passions across our community, I write to you in greater haste and with less explication than is my custom. I hope to readdress this matter at more length at a later date. For the moment, though, I wish to counsel proceeding slowly, carefully, and inclusively. With respect to the last of the three, you have an obligation to afford the public opportunities to express their views on the matter in formal council proceedings. Whatever other symbolism people may attach to the physical structure occupying that small patch of land in our downtown, it does have cultural and historical significance and has been a part of the fabric of Portsmouth history for better than half of our community’s existence. Fundamentally, it is a remembrance of men who gave their lives fighting for Virginia, albeit for a cause of dubious merit. Many, if not most, wars have been “causes of dubious merit”; yet, we in America have, nonetheless, honored those who fell in battle, or because of it, since the earliest days of our republic. The dead soldiers commemorated were the fellow countrymen, and even family members, in some instances, of those who fought against them. Whatever we ultimately end up doing about this memorial, then, we need to proceed in a way that respects the sacrifice of those honored and the sensibilities of the community as a whole.
Please let me know if you need additional information.