Our nation needs a new focus in debating the removal of statues honoring Confederate leaders. Such discussion can be valuable, prompting citizens to think about our nation’s inherent values — rather than our political obsessions.

Understand, I’m not talking about the abuse of this issue by hate groups using it to promote their warped agendas. I’m confident most people are offended by such groups stirring up the matter — hoping to find followers for their un-American ideologies.

However, I do respect many others who seek honest remembrance of Southern leaders from the Civil War era. 19th century thinking saw those “heroes” offering themselves in a struggle to preserve sacred traditions.

Those leaders were demonstrating loyalty for values considered proper at that time, even supported by their Biblical interpretations. They fought against the Union forces jeopardizing those beliefs and values.

Granted, moral and religious challenges to slavery already existed. In fact, England banned slave trading in 1807, and abolished slavery in 1833. Nevertheless, in 1860 the issue had not been settled here.

Thus I ask if we’re imposing retroactive morality on Southern heroes? We know now that the slavery principle they were defending was wrong — but we know it best by hindsight.

In legal matters, our Constitution prohibits “ex post facto” laws — laws created to condemn action(s) taken before the laws were written. I’m simply asking if our frenzy to remove Confederate statues is a form of “retroactive” or “ex post facto” morality.

This letter is not proposing a solution to the issue. Rather it seeks a new level of understanding for our Southern sisters and brothers — in hopes that such understanding creates a discussion climate in which honorable solutions can be found.

— William A. McCartney