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The ghastly spectacle last month of neo-Nazis marching through Charlottesville, Virginia, carrying torches and barking slogans about the supremacy of the white race, was sparked by the city's plans to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, the leader of the Confederate army, which fought to retain slavery in the secessionist South during the American Civil War.One is tempted to assume that only people who believe in the magical power of images would wish to erase them. The sensible way to deal with monuments of the past would be to see them as artifacts of history.Many people in the U.S. South argue that Confederate monuments should be protected as mere reminders of the past, as part of a common "heritage".For many southerners, though by no means all, the Confederate cause and its monuments are still felt to be part of their collective identity.That is why statues of Gen. Lee in front of court buildings and other public places are noxious, and why many people, including southern liberals, wish to see them removed.Much of the rural south is poorer and less educated than other parts of the U.S. People feel ignored and looked down upon by urban coastal elites.
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