Pictured is Confederate General James Longstreet.

The civil war ended 158 years, 7 months, and 4 days ago. We must continue to study and learn and talk about it, but the arguing must end.

Unfortunately, it is not hard to find people still willing to argue about the war and its causes. Some people will belligerently assert that the war had nothing at all to do with slavery; while in other circles that may or may not include my wife, you will face derisive indignation if you dare to suggest that slavery may not have been the only cause of the war.

Every time a Civil War monument is removed, or recontextualized there will be two competing protests, and those protests sometimes turn violent.

Proposed: Let’s stop arguing about the Civil War and start accepting the available lessons to be learned.

Did you know that Robert E. Lee opposed the building of monuments and memorials? He thought it would be wiser “not to keep open the sores of war”, and he advocated peace and reconciliation.

It is also worth considering the post-war efforts of General Lee’s second in command, James Longstreet, about whom a biography has recently been published. The book is called The Confederate General who defied the South. I have not read it, but I have read some excerpts and highlights in an article from The Atlantic. According to the article, Longstreet took an even more active role in post-war reconstruction and reconciliation. Yes, Longstreet was a slave owner before the war, but he worked for civil rights after. The South had he said, “appealed to the arbitrament of the sword,” and had a moral obligation to accept the outcome: “The decision,” he wrote, “was in favor of the North, so her construction becomes the law.”

The author of the article in The Atlantic, Eric Froner, mentioned a trip in 1997 to Gettysburg National Military Park, when funds were being raised to erect a statue of Longstreet at the battlefield. At that time, Longstreet’s efforts towards building a new South were still considered by some to be a problem. The Sons of Confederate Veterans who commissioned the statue said the general was being honored for his “war service,” not his “postwar activities.” To me, the bright spot in General Longstreet’s resume is his post-war efforts and not the other way around.