To be clear, I’m all for removing Confederate statues and flags from public spaces, because the Confederacy was an evil regime that fought against the United States not only to preserve, but also to expand, the brutal institution of slavery. Memorializing the Confederacy was also part of a post-war project to romanticize the Old South, which played a role in sustaining the Jim Crow system.

But there is an important distinction between celebrating acts of treason, and celebrating flawed people for heroic acts, despite the fact that they also committed egregious sins.

In 2020, we do not celebrate Washington or Jefferson as slaveholders. We celebrate Washington as a general who led our struggle for independence and who was the first president. Somebody who had the clout and support to seize power for life, but who set the extraordinary example of giving up power after two terms in office and peacefully transferring it to a successor.