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What Could Silent Sam Say Now?

by | Dec 28, 2018 | Houses of Worship

Silent Sam is a bronze statue of a Confederate soldier by Canadian sculptor John A. Wilson, which stood from 1913 until 2018 on the historic upper quad of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, NC, United States.

(With all the controversy surrounding Silent Sam, a Confederate statue, Jody Seymour, the author of this article, wondered what the statue might say if he could speak. The other morning, Reverend Seymour woke up with the following thoughts weaving their way through his imagination.)

            “So, again, I am toppled like the cause for which I stood. What if I told you that I have been watching what has happened all these years since I was first erected in the midst of all those white supremacy speeches and the planting of Jim Crow seeds?

            “What if I told you that I now see how blind we were? My shoes are frozen, so I realize that you cannot walk a mile in them. I do not expect you to understand how and why I signed up before I stood up. I believed my cause was just because that is the way I was raised. I knew nothing else and it felt “right.”

            “You cannot imagine the carnage I both witnessed and in which I participated. You fight wars now with drones and smart bombs. We stood face to face a few yards apart and looked each other in the eye before we killed one another.

            “My name may now be “Sam,” but I represent countless unnamed “boys” who were ripped apart by loyalty and whirling metal. I, at first, stood for but one side in all of this. I was erected to honor one side and demonize the other side’s cause, but I now know in my heart of steel that I really stand for a need to remember how we can get lost in causes.

            “What if I told you I now understand why I need to be brought down? What if I also cautioned you, while not “featuring” me, that you should also not hide me away in some grave like closet? Put me in a place where there is a door so that those who wish to gaze upon my frozen memory can choose whether or not to do so.

            “And if they choose to see me, perhaps the remembrance can be one of the need to learn and not forget; not forget how good people can do really awful things in the name of zealous and even blind nationalism. Maybe this is too much to ask and after what I have witnessed from my monumental perch, I would understand those who want me banished.

            “Over the horizon I have seen lynchings, rallies with grown men wearing white protection and dancing like children around a burning cross, votes denied, dirty backs of buses, “colored and white” water fountains…and countless images of injustice. Before you knocked me from my place of vision, I also saw thousands listen to a man who “had a dream.” I saw laws changed for the better and hearts changed. I even saw a man whose ancestors were the slaves I fought to keep from becoming President. I have seen a lot.

            “My question to you is do I still have the ability to “teach?” It could be that the evil I represent to so many is so prevalent that nothing can be learned. But what if some could see me and remember to be careful of causes? What if history, rather than being used as a weapon could be used as a tool? What if rather than honoring me, you use me to remember never to forget?

            “Maybe you could put me someplace where those who come to see me will come as students rather than protestors. There is surely a place and a need for protesting after what I have witnessed, but there is also a need to learn and not forget the hard lessons of the past.

            “It’s just a thought. And by the way, after what I have seen, if I could speak, I would ask those I harmed for their forgiveness and I would understand if they could not do that. The thing about silence is that if that is all there is, people tend to fill the silence with their own thoughts. I guess that is all I have to say. Do with me as you please. Just remember to learn.”

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