Council’s action continues monument soap opera

Published 10:04 pm Thursday, September 12, 2013

The controversy involving the Confederate Circle in Selma’s Old Live Oak Cemetery saw another plot twist as, out of the blue, the Selma City Council Tuesday began the process of selling the acre of property to the United Daughters of Confederacy.

And, other than likely wanting to get as far away as possible from the much-debated monument dedicated to Confederate general and Klu Klux Klan official Nathan Bedford Forrest, the sale, some council members say, is designed to get those suing the city in federal court to drop the suits, potentially saving the city thousands in restitution should a judge side with KTK Mining, the firm suing the city for ordering a stoppage of work at the monument site.

Since the Forrest monument was first created, it has served as a lightening rod for controversy. Now, the monument — with the bust of Forrest missing following a theft in March 2012 — sits in Confederate Circle, next to a monument honoring all Confederate soldiers and an unfinished pedestal where a refurbished Forrest monument might one day stand.

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But, alas, the city, learning the property might still be its property, shut the construction project down in August 2012, after residents protested the work, resulting in lawsuits from the construction company, claiming lost earnings.

Our issue today is not with the circle itself. Many cities have Confederate monuments and are able to have them coexist peacefully alongside monuments to Civil Rights leaders, but there are few who have monuments to Forrest.

Our issue is not about whether those who wish to honor their heritage, black or white, can do so, but with those on the Selma City Council who can’t help themselves but to bring this issue up each and every meeting, stirring the pot and refusing to let the court settle it. Our issue is with those who appear to have slipped this item into a meeting when nearly a majority of the council was not even in attendance. More specifically, when many of the council’s black members were not in attendance.

Not surprisingly, the idea of selling the property passed 4-to-1 and now the city will waste time creating an ordinance, reading the ordinance twice and then voting on the issue. And, almost certainly, if the entire council deems it important enough to show up for that meeting, the ordinance will certainly fail to be approved by a majority vote.

We, and likely many of you, are tired of this situation. It doesn’t matter, in our mind, who is right, who is wrong, but rather this is happening at all; in Selma, where our history of solving racial and social issues — with one major exception — isn’t that stellar.

We even found out after the meeting the group the city wants to sell the circle to doesn’t even want to buy it, because they are under the misguided impression they already own it. Why buy what you already own?

We have wasted more ink, more newsprint, more time and more oxygen discussing an issue that, at the end of the day, does not create one job in Selma, feed one hungry child, improve a troubling city infrastructure, or serve to change the impression many outside our community have of Selma and its people.

For 12 years this monument, this inanimate thing, has been an irritating splinter that continues to fester.

Hopefully the federal courts will one day rule, provide some clarity and put us on a course where we do not have to worry about this monument made of granite and forged in ego.