Defending R.E. Lee

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The
campaign against one of the greatest Americans ever continues. The
Richmond-area Boy Scouts have stripped Robert E. Lee's name from
their uniforms, title, and logo.

How
sad, given that Lee's life, and the maxims by which he lived, are
exactly what the growing generation of boys in this country needs.

Everyone
knows why the Scouts dropped the name, but the reason is unimportant.
The important thing is the example of manhood of which the Scouts
are deprived.

Lee's
Life

Many
have used superlatives to describe Lee. Lee was "the most perfect
man I have ever met … made of different and finer metal than other
men," one admirer said. "He is an epistle," said
another, "written of God."

Lee
lived by the code of honor and chivalry. He embodied dignity, manly
bearing, and valor. A pious Christian, his principal object was
doing God's will.

Lee's
code can be found in a small volume called The
Maxims of Robert E. Lee for Young Gentlemen
, published by
Virginia Gentlemen Books and the source of the quote used here.

A
humble man, Lee once said, "I know of nothing good I could
tell you of myself." Indeed, he would likely say the Scouts
should have taken a different man's name.

As
president of Washington College, he shaped the lives of many young
men. "You cannot be a true man," he told his students,
"unless you learn to obey."

"Study
hard," he told them, "be always a gentleman, live cleanly
and remember God." And he once told Stonewall Jackson's minister,
"I dread the thought of any student going away from the college
without becoming a sincere Christian."

"Do
your duty," he wrote to son Custis. "That is all the pleasure,
all the comfort, all the glory we can enjoy in this world."

"We
must all try to be good Christians," he said to a 5-year-old
boy, "that is the most important thing."

The
stories that demonstrate Lee's character are legion and cannot be
repeated here.

Whom
Would They Revere?

Boy
Scouts should be clamoring to adopt Lee's name.

But
no. They erased it.

And
to be replaced by whom? Arthur Ashe, a tennis player? There's a
statue of him in Richmond. How about Abe Lincoln, the American man-god,
whom we are supposed to worship with sacrilegious veneration, and
whose effigy recently arose amid the streets of Richmond?

Perhaps
the Scouts can learn to emulate him.

Perhaps
they will learn to regale their friends with jokes so filthy the
women and children must leave the room, or to laugh at the misfortune
of others, as Lincoln laughed when Gen. Sherman told him about burning
Georgia. Perhaps they will learn to lie and exhibit false piety.

What
A Boy Scout Should Be

Modern
Scouts likely never learned much about Lee, but removing his name
certainly won't help matters. Lee's example is sorely, desperately
needed in a society that produces video games in which men maim
women, and music videos in which singers gleefully advocate rape
and murder.

What
kind of boy was Lee?

"He
was a most exemplary student," a teacher said. "He was
never behind-time in his studies; never failed a single recitation;
was perfectly observant of the rules and regulations of the institution;
was gentle, manly, unobtrusive, and respectful in all his deportment
to this teachers and his fellow students."

Sounds
like what a Boy Scout should be.

May
17, 2003

Syndicated
columnist R. Cort Kirkwood [send
him mail
] is managing editor of the Daily News-Record
in Harrisonburg, Va.

R.
Cort Kirkwood Archives


     

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