An African-American Florida state representative proposing a bill called the Soldiers’ and Heroes’ Monuments and Memorials Protection Act probably isn’t the type to make too many waves, you might imagine.
After all, the bill looks to do exactly what it sounds like — protecting existing monuments on public property.
It’s when you consider that Confederate monuments are included in the plan that you begin to see why it’s so controversial.
According to the Miami New Times, Rep. Mike Hill says that the 30-odd monuments to the Confederacy should stay for educational purposes, even if talk of the men as “uncrowned heroes,” “a noble band” or those who showed “dauntless valor” may not have aged so well to modern ears.
“It will not change any person’s life today by tearing down a Confederate monument or tearing down a statue or tearing down a cross,” Hill, the first black representative elected from the Florida Panhandle since, well, the Confederacy was in existence, told the New Times.
“It will not change any person’s life by doing that. What it will do is prevent someone from learning the history of why it was there in the first place.”
Hill’s position is controversial in that he believes that while slavery played a part in the Civil War, it wasn’t the only factor. Instead, he “argues the war was fought primarily for money, but also for states’ rights and preservation of a ‘lifestyle.'”
“Slavery was a part of it,” Hill says. “And we as a nation overcame that; we fought a terrible war — over 600,000 people died — so that we could rid this nation of slavery. I think that is something that we shouldn’t erase or try to run away from. That is something that we should understand, know and be proud of, that we were a nation that did that.”
While the Confederate monument aspect of the bill is what’s getting the most attention, Hill told Fox News that’s not entirely what it’s about.
“It also protects first responders and astronauts,” Hill said. “So it goes beyond just Confederate monuments.”
In his interview with the New Times, he also mentioned the recent theft of a Frederick Douglass statue in Rochester, New York, as an inspiration for the legislation.
Around Pensacola — the area he represents — he’s gotten mostly plaudits for his plan, although he says the “small” reaction from the African-American community hasn’t been positive.
He also said it was “nonsense” he was trying to protect monuments dedicated to slave owners, saying that the desire to tear down the statues was “faked, feigned outrage.”
It’s worth noting, for those of you who haven’t heard of Hill, that he’s a controversial character in the Florida political scene in ways that don’t involve Confederate monuments. As Florida Politics reported, there were numerous complaints about how he managed to pull off his upset primary victory over Rebekah Bydlak, considered a rising star in the Florida GOP.
Complaints swirled regarding remarks made by the campaign against Bydlak that were considered sexist by some commentators; another attack on Bydlak claimed she would tear down Confederate monuments, an issue that resonated greatly in highly conservative Pensacola.
Perhaps most contentious, however, were attempts to emphasize Bydlak’s endorsement by Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, a well-known libertarian voice in the U.S. Congress. Hill made note of Amash’s Palestinian heritage on social media — something that set off red flags among some reporters, given that Hill has previously called Islam a “cult” and “cancer” that worships a “demon god.” (Amash is a Christian.)
Whatever the provenance of the bill might be or how you feel about Hill, it’s the first piece of legislation the freshman representative has filed. Florida legislators will soon be going on record, in one way or another, about how they feel about protecting history — or if they feel it’s worth protecting.
One thing can be said for certain, though — this one is going to get the left riled up in a major way.
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