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How Do We Decide Fate of Confederate Monuments in New Orleans?

December 14, 2015  • Walter Isaacson

In the discussions over Lee Circle and related monuments in New Orleans, one question has been raised that, because it’s a valid concern, deserves to be addressed with respect. That is the issue of the slippery slope. If we take down a monument to Robert E. Lee, where does it end? Ought we then take down the statue of Andrew Jackson, since he was a slave owner? Rename Washington and Jefferson avenues? Remove the statue of Bienville, since he wrote the first Code Noir that regulated the practice of slavery in the city he founded?

Renaming public places and moving monuments is often done, and it can indeed be a slippery slope. But pointing that out does not settle the argument. Most slopes are slippery. That realization should prompt us to figure out what principles we should use — what distinctions we should make — to find a secure foothold. If we become unwilling to navigate all slippery slopes, we will find ourselves comfortable only on the extremes of any issue, which is a problem that is afflicting our nation and world today.

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