Look Into The Past
In a historic election, that not many predicted, everyone can feel the divide in our nation. As a resident of the DC area, the fear and uncertainty are palpable. But this divide is nothing new for the United States. The same sentiment is reflected in the historical story of the Civil War.
This blog initially started in order to share the stories behind the photographs I take, and this week’s is truly timely.
Last Sunday, I ventured into Arlington National Cemetery around dusk to capture the amazing autumn colors in the leaves and the sunset sky. We climbed the hill to the house that sits inside the cemetery overlooking all of DC. As we walked, my boyfriend asked me if I knew whose house this was. I’m not proud of this, but my mind went blank. The answer was on the tip of my tongue, but I couldn’t remember it for the life of me. I made a series of guesses that are all too embarrassing to put here, but needless to say, I was way off.
The plaque posted next to the mansion told me it was the home of Robert E. Lee. But sadly, my American history was failing me yet again, and I couldn’t really say anything about Robert E. Lee’s historical significance. Why was his house honored in the most historic cemetery for millions of visitors to see every year? Being the wonderful man he is, my boyfriend wouldn’t tell me. Instead, he challenged me to learn for myself and research the topic. And now I will never forget.
Robert E. Lee
So here I am to tell you about Robert E. Lee and how it relates to American society today. This by no means, encompasses the entire story, but here are some of the main takeaways that resonated with me.
Robert E. Lee was an amazing military general, and a very loyal Virginian. He proved himself in the Mexican American War, and then became the Superintendent of West Point. During the Civil War, Lincoln asked Lee to command the Union troops, which Lee declined, and he ended up resigning from the Union army once Virginia entered the war. Lee was loyal to his home state and felt compelled to fight on behalf of Virginia, despite opposing succession.
He commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. He fought difficult battles, but ultimately he gracefully surrendered and supported the Reconstruction post Civil-War. He is remembered for his courage and character during a time when our country was so divided. He fought hard, but remained humble. Lee captured a voice of unity in a country that was trying to rebuild.
Robert E. Lee’s family home sits atop a hill inside Arlington National Cemetery overlooking the many headstones of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. It also sits directly across the river from DC; Memorial Bridge connects the two over the Potomac. Memorial Bridge literally joins the capital of the North with the capital of the South. Landmarks symbolic of the respective leaders lie at each end of the bridge, signifying the reunification between the Union and the Confederacy. The Lincoln Memorial for the North, and Lee’s home for the South.
Today, many Americans are waking up shocked at the election results, and they should be. The results are historic, and not as predicted. Many are scared and uncertain of the future. The divisions are felt in every city, and every county in the nation. There is definitely change on the horizon. Yes, things will be different. Yes, the future is unknown. Yes, fear is natural. Yes, some people will accept this easier than others. Our country arguably has not been this divided since Robert E. Lee took up arms for the Confederacy.
Lee’s playbook will tell us to fight for what we believe in and remain loyal, but accept defeat gracefully. Our country is in need of a Memorial Bridge to conquer the gap between the Democrats and Republicans, in order to pave a way forward.
So I leave this picture here for you to think about as we move forward after the election with Donald Trump as the President-elect of the United States. As the shock wears off in the coming days, there is still a lot to be done to make these states united again.