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Editor: For those complaining about changing the name of Lee Highway and the costs associated with it, consider the city of St. Petersburg in Russia.
Some 200 years after its founding by Peter the Great, it was re-christened “Petrograd” during World War I, to protest the brutal warmongering of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany (replacing the German word “burg” – city – for the Slavic word “grad”).
Then, after the Communist Revolution and the death of its leader, Vladimir Lenin, the city was forced to live under the name “Leningrad” from 1924 until 1991.
Lenin was one of history’s most notorious killers; he set the stage for a communist regime that enslaved, imprisoned, starved, tortured and murdered millions of its own people for almost 75 years. But generations of Soviet schoolchildren were brainwashed into thinking that Lenin and his cronies were good people.
The White Revolution of August 1991 brought an end to that brutal lie. As soon as communism breathed its last, the people of Russia demanded that the names be changed. The transition was lightning-fast – “Leningrad” was once again “St. Petersburg,” and in the blink of an eye the original names of all the major streets there, and in Moscow, were restored.
The name of Robert E. Lee, like Lenin’s, has been honored for generations. I was taught, like many of the Sun Gazette’s readers, that Lee was a gentleman without an evil bone in his body. But Ty Seidule’s recent book, “Robert E. Lee and Me” corrects the record.
Seidule – who taught history at West Point, Lee’s alma mater – demonstrates that, time and again, Lee betrayed the country whose Constitution he swore a solemn oath to preserve, protect and defend. Lee also was a bigot who believed in slavery and the superiority of the white “race.”
If you had complained to the mayor of St. Petersburg about the expense of changing names, people would have thought you were crazy. Because, of course, names do matter – and a street’s name should never honor the memory of a man whose conduct was disgraceful.
Andrew Walker White, Arlington