The recent letter by Leonard Milberg ’53 (Inbox, July/August issue) regarding controversial statuary — particularly that by the talented hand of Confederate sympathizer Moses Ezekiel — brings to mind an arresting anomaly centered, literally, around one of his massive works at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC).
ANC is the military cemetery across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. often described as “our nation’s most hallowed ground.” There among 639 acres of memorial grounds stands the Confederate Memorial, a monumental monolith named “New South” created by the aforementioned sculptor, who apparently considered it the “crowning achievement of his career,” according to a 2017 story in the Forward.
The massive megalith (with its representational African American “Mammy”) is surrounded by Confederate dead laid under concentric circles of tombstones, unique in their pointed tops, setting these apart from ANC's otherwise characteristic radius-topped tombstones.
One need not begrudge the dead; no matter one’s background or social station all of us, from our last breath, fill the same size hole. But surely these dead are more appropriately interred in some Confederate cemetery (such as in Richmond, Charlottesville, or Chattanooga) than in the ANC.
These graves being unique within the ANC, by their singular headstones and circular distribution (all the graves other than these are distributed in neat geometrically orthogonal rows) sets them apart as something evidently special and distinctive.
But how is it that we distinguish these dead, among the some 400,000 at ANC, with what appears arguably to be a special status? These dead fought to rend apart a republic that still fights varied tyrannies for solid footing. For what reason does the nation honor them uniquely?