Frank R. Pignanelli and LaVarr Webb: Painful discussion can move us to a better future

The Kardashians recently shared their opinions regarding the Charlottesville protest controversy. If this wacky reality TV family can weigh in, then so can we. Here’s our Utah perspective on some difficult and sensitive issues.

The national debate over statues, monuments and parks dedicated to Confederate leaders has again erupted. How should this be resolved?

Pignanelli: The erection of a monument … would have the effect of continuing if not adding to the difficulties under which the Southern people labor." — Robert E. Lee

"Abraham Lincoln-Vampire Hunter" is a 2012 movie with the silly premise that throughout his life our 16th president pursued and slayed the undead. In this fun fantasy flick, the Confederate States of America was controlled by hellish bloodsucking monsters — which is close to actual history. The real Confederacy was organized with the evil premise of maintaining slavery not only in this country, but throughout colonies in Latin America and South America. The traitorous men who fostered this dreary vision must not be honored in public monuments.

“The South” has a heritage and legacy to be treasured and appreciated. Even the darker elements should not be forgotten, but remain in the tapestry of traditions.

As an Italian Irish-American, I am sympathetic to the affection the South attaches to their unique heritage. No one enjoys mob movies more than me, especially because these stories are an element of the American fabric. But pride in one’s background does not create rationale justifications for the inhumane behavior of our ancestors.

Public monuments memorializing the Confederacy are contrary to American ideals …as are any statues honoring Al Capone and Lucky Luciano.

Webb: The underlying issue here is racism, an evil that we must not tolerate, and that we must denounce in the strongest terms possible. I don’t believe President Trump is a white supremacist, but his rhetorical inadequacies provided an opening for a frenzy of criticism from his enemies.

I believe local leaders and citizens should determine if statues and monuments should stay or go. We should all learn from history that we might not be proud of. Should all things that remind us of that history be destroyed?

If all countries, ethnic groups and cultures are honest and consistent, then just about everyone has historical issues to deal with. Episodes of racism, slavery, massacres and blatant injustice have occurred in the history of most cultures, countries and ethnic groups — including Christianity, Mormonism, Catholicism, Islam, other religions, Native American tribes, African tribes, European cultures, Asian empires, and so forth.

Evil is always evil. But I’m not sure I’m qualified to fairly judge people living hundreds of years ago by today’s principles, values, ethics and standards.

Even Abraham Lincoln, that great emancipator of slaves and perhaps the nation’s greatest president, made a number of racist statements. We should learn from the past and continually improve. Local leaders and citizens should decide what best enables learning the lessons of history.

Many Utah officials provided a response to these highly charged events. What should Utahns expect of their leaders?

Pignanelli: Utah Republican and Democrat officials were eloquent in their criticism of the events in Charlottesville. The reference by Sen. Orrin Hatch to his brother who died fighting Nazis was extraordinarily poignant.

Demands upon Republicans to completely reject President Trump are unrealistic at this time. (History suggests caution in such requests. Subsequent to the revelation President Bill Clinton had multiple Oval Office sexual liaisons with a 21-year-old intern, Democrat officeholders and liberal groups criticized such conduct, but were silent beyond that.) Our officials must continually remind constituents they remain dedicated to the ideals of our nation, and fervently oppose the fringe elements with contrary objectives.

Webb: I believe our leaders have responded gracefully and appropriately.

Is there a silver lining somewhere in these dark clouds?

Pignanelli: Whether through wonderful events (i.e. moon landing, peaceful transfers of power, etc.) or darker chapters that spur nationwide cathartic responses (i.e. Charleston and Charlottesville shootings, etc.) Americans are reminded of the great souls they possess. Hopefully, the emotions percolating this summer will motivate Congress to ignore narrow demands of left- and right-wing extremists and construct needed legislation.

Webb: This discussion, while painful, moves us forward, helping us become more sensitive and empathetic to others.

When I was a child in the 1950s, I recall a person I admired a great deal, a person who loved and helped everyone, no matter their race, creed, background or religion. But I remember this person using words that would be considered hateful today. He was not a racist, and didn’t mean for those words to be racist. He was part of a society and culture 60 years ago that was more insular, that took things for granted, that didn’t know better.

We have a long way to go, but we shouldn’t forget we’ve made a remarkable amount of progress.