Lawmakers must be able to hear the collective eye-rolls by this point in the legislative session. Rather than focus on increasing revenue, diversifying and expanding our struggling economy or improving our children’s educations, they are instead wallowing in the embarrassing political theater that is the West Virginia Monument and Memorial Protection Act of 2021.
House Bill 2174 prohibits “the relocation, removal, alteration, renaming, rededication, or other disturbance of any statue, monument, memorial, nameplate, or plaque which is located on public property and has been erected for, or named, or dedicated in honor of certain historical military, civil rights, and Native American events, figures, and organizations.”
The bill also would penalize those who interfere with “the governmental entity having responsibility for maintaining the items, structures, or areas from taking proper measures to protect, preserve, care for, repair, or restore the items, structures, or areas; and to establish a process by which the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office may grant waivers.”
Of course, the “historical military” part of that paragraph includes monuments to those who participated in what the bill’s sponsors (Dels. Patrick McGeehan, R-Hancock; Joe Jeffries, R-Putnam; John Mandt Jr., R-Cabell; and Trenton Barnhart, R-Pleasants) actually referred to as “the War Between the states” (sic). We’re one step away from lawmakers calling the U.S. Civil War “the war of Northern aggression.”
During the early part of the 20th Century, organizations such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy erected many of the monuments glorifying the Confederacy as an intimidation tactic. They popped up in reaction to the budding effort to obtain more rights for Black Americans just finding their footing.
Does HB 2174 prohibit even the addition of historical information plaques to, for example, monuments to Stonewall Jackson, explaining the cause for which he fought?
Vandalism is already illegal. And the bill includes a petition process to grant waivers to those who want to make a change of which these lawmakers approve.
So exactly what is the point?
If the point is to waste the time of those in Charleston who could be pushing West Virginia forward into a bright future, it is working.