Letter: An informed discussion on the Vance Monument

Graphic by Lori Deaton

My first reaction was outrage that the city would squander money on removing a geometric object [“Council Votes to Demolish Vance Monument,” March 31, Xpress].

However, I began to realize that the feeling was caused by poor messaging on the part of the city. Doubtless there are many people on the other side of this question, but their views by and large have not been shared with the community.

Why haven’t the public comments to the Vance Monument commission been published on a website so we can have an informed discussion?

— Lou Lieb


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Letters
We want to hear from you! Send your letters and commentary to letters@mountainx.com

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

27 thoughts on “Letter: An informed discussion on the Vance Monument

  1. Voter

    I don’t think I’m the only person in town to think that removing the monument was destined to be the outcome even before the “commission” was appointed, so even if comments from 99.9% of the population were against removing the monument, publishing the comments wouldn’t matter. This city council has its own agenda and damn the people it represents. We need to reconsider having city council representatives elected by district . It’s the only way constituents’ concerns will ever be represented.

    • James

      Do you think guaranteeing you ONE vote on the council would have changed the outcome? You have Sandra Kilgore carrying the water for traitors and racists already.

    • Curious

      Very helpful link. Has anyone tallied the comments, pro vs con, to get a sense of the prevailing public opinion, at least as measured by those who bothered to speak up? Would a valid poll (by telephone?) have guided the Council’s decision?

  2. Peter Robbins

    The letter, though pointless on its face, raises an interesting idea: Maybe rename the obelisk “Geometric Object I” – a monument to modernist pretension that doesn’t mean anything, doesn’t do anything, and doesn’t stand for anything, but still evokes in the viewer powerful feelings of resentment and alienation. Something for everyone there.

    • Stan Hawkins

      Oh yes; “modernist pretension” you say. A fitting comment or possible admission? If only Asheville could “monetize pretension” then all would be well.

      • Peter Robbins

        See what I mean about something for everyone? They haven’t even started the demolition yet, and already we’ve got people trying to cash in on resentment and alienation.

        • Hawkins Stan

          Charlie Brown could “never kick the ball” – as Lucy was relentless in her trickery and slight of hand. But, the show goes on doesn’t it?

          Perhaps the “pile of stones and street signs” are our episode of Charlie Brown.

          • Peter Robbins

            Your comments should come with Cliff’s Notes, Stan. That last haiku is inscrutable. How about an English version?

            But, to repurpose the gridiron metaphor, I think what happened here is that your team, owing to its own unforced errors, found itself in terrible field position, tried to punt, fumbled the snap, and now is now trying to blame the embarrassment on the refs. That ain’t gonna play well with the fans, even on home turf. Maybe time to hit the showers?

  3. Carol Marty

    I don’t believe it’s the City council’s failure to communicate; I believe (agree) MountainXpress is continuing to publish dissenting comments rather than supporting comments, and should now be supporting the outcome that WAS publicly determined.

    If you disagree with the vote outcome and missed your opportunity to provide input then make sure you get on the calls, write your council, etc, BEFORE decisions are made. The public input was unanimously in favor of removing it. Now is the perfect opportunity to close the divide and come together (speaking to you also, MountainXpress) and create a fresh replacement with positive meaning that honors all the great qualities of this town and and that is relevant and uplifting to everyone.

    • Curious

      “. . . The public input was unanimously in favor of removing it. . . .”
      Unanimous means there were no dissenting opinions. The comments on the link supplied by Mr. Summers indicates there was a lot of opposition.
      Is there any scientific/statistical tally of real data (opinion polls/published comments to clarify public opinion?
      It is unlikely, of course, that the council will change its decision, even if it were determined that there is strong sentiment to retain-and-rename the obelisk. We are, after all, a representative democracy, not a direct democracy. Otherwise, the Council would have ordered a referendum.

    • Peter Robbins

      I heard the commenters were Antifa infiltrators. I don’t expect the fake news to investigate, but where is SKYline News when you need it?

    • Stan Hawkins

      Your comments suggesting “Mountain Xpress should be supporting the outcome, and not publishing dissenting comments” is probably a reason why you get dissenting comments.

      Some people believe in the freedom of expression, as opposed to a form of controlled expression. There are many places you can go see how you like that experience.

      • Carol Marty

        You don’t need to criticize and shame me. I’m not an idiot and not condoning censorship. I’m saying the process was held appropriately. And the process led to a decision based on public input.
        It’s time to give it up and come together. This is what is wrong with our current culture and I don’t need your answer. Go forth and express your opinion to others. Insulting me is not the answer. Be well.

        • Stan Hawkins

          Thank you for your clarification as to freedom of expression. I appreciate the comment, as I am naturally always concerned when that subject lacks clarity. Your suggestion that I do not reply was received. As to the coming together on the pile of stones, I don’t much have any reason to object to what politicians do in Asheville. They will either succeed or not. The extent of commerce transacted in Asheville will most likely hinge on some of their actions.

          What I do object to, is approximately 4-5 years ago when this subject became a hot issue in this publication, the original post suggested that “anyone with an ounce of gumption” should realize the Vance Monument should be demolished / moved to another location. It is the “ounce of gumption” comment that got my attention. The author, who chimes in on this publication still today, did make a reasonable contrition of some sorts at the time. I expect it was genuine. But, the comment lingers; I expect some for you as well. I apologize if mine were offensive to you.

          I appreciate your clarification as well for, I am a Great Great Great or so Grand Son of a road builder, entrepreneur of Western North Carolina, Solomon Jones; whom a park is named for in Upstate South Carolina. Solomon Jones drew maps for runaway slaves during the Civil War who were escaping the south trying to make their way through Tennessee into Kentucky and places North. Solomon Jones was a northern sympathizer, just as Vance’s friend George Pack was of Pack Memorial Library and Pack Square.

          Perhaps I am a bit sensitive about these matters being a native son of North Carolina, who lost many sons, husbands and fathers in the terrible war between the states. And for these reasons, along with the aforementioned, I object to being classed with those with a lack of gumption, and with a hint of suggestion of just shutting up.

          I hope Asheville moves on, prospers, and finds its peace in all things. It is my choice to move on, agree, or be wary of the future. I hope you agree with that.

          • Carol Marty

            ✌️Stan, I appreciate the apology and your story.
            Best to you 🤝

          • Peter Robbins

            If you were referring to me as the mystery poster, Stan, I don’t recall using the phrase “anyone with an ounce of gumption” ever in any context. Could you furnish the full quotation?

          • James

            This wasn’t “a war between the states.” It was a war waged against the United States by a country with its own flag, president, constitution and army to defend the “states rights” to continue slavery. I’m descended from people who fought to defend America in that war. I see statues dedicated to the people who killed people like MY ancestors. Outside of Confederate traitor monuments, name ONE monument in America dedicated to people who killed American troops. Confederates have had over 150 years to get over it and we’ve tried to be patient and respectful.

            Now people like me are going to speak up for OUR loses. People who defend Vance are spitting in the face of American troops and the families of those who lost loved ones fighting for OUR country. Yet you NEVER see that acknowledgement of AMERICAN loss from people determined to honor and glorify Vance. Why?

      • Peter Robbins

        Actually, the shame belongs to Stan — for not understanding what the term “freedom of expression” means. Freedom of expression, in this context, means that a newspaper has a constitutional right to publish what it wants; to not publish what it doesn’t want; to support what it wants; to oppose what it doesn’t want; to take a side when it wants; and to remain neutral when it wants. All Carol Marty did was ask the Mountain Xpress to exercise its unfettered editorial discretion differently. Criticism like that does not suppress free speech; it’s an exercise of free speech — one which Stan is trying to shame into silence. I don’t happen to agree with the content of her speech (I’d prefer a robust debate, even after the decision to demolish was made), but its articulation does not interfere with anybody else’s liberty or freedom. Stan is starting to sound like one of those geniuses who think Sandra Kilgore was stifled by an undemocratic process, when all she did was lose a vote. Maybe time for his side to chill?

        • Stan Hawkins

          Peter, here is your caption from 2017; actually more offensive than I recall to a Great Great grandson of “conscripted” WNC citizen Thomas Hawkins who died in military hospital, Petersburg, VA – 1862:

          Posted on October 27, 2017 by Peter Robbins
          “First off, let’s agree that anybody with an ounce of decency must feel a bit embarrassed that Asheville has given its top award for excellence to a man like Zebulon Baird Vance.”

          I believe the inference is, none not believing in your construct, are therefore indecent. Be well, and here’s to Charlie Brown.

          • Peter Robbins

            Stan, old boy: There’s nothing offensive about the line you’ve been fussing about all this time. Not in the least. It’s a true statement — one that I think is just about universally shared now by people in Asheville. In fact, you’d be hard put to find anyone anymore who is merely “a bit” embarrassed about honoring Mr. White Supremacy, present company excepted. Certainly, no one on the Asheville City Council, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, the Vance Monument Task Force, and the Human Relations Commission of Asheville — all of which voted unanimously to strip the odious Vance name from the public square. If you don’t agree with my statement about where the demands of decency fall, you don’t have to, but you’re in a very lonely minority. And by the way, it’s not my caption; it was selected from the text by the editor. It’s interesting that you think the Mountain Xpress would deliberately highlight an offensive line when it published the opinion piece. You think the editors were trying to insult you, too? You want them to show you some “contrition”?

            P.S. My great-great-grandfather died in South Carolina fighting to defeat your ancestors’ insurrection — the rebellion you mislabel as a “war between the states.” But I don’t ask you to give my feelings any special consideration. I can take care of myself.

  4. Carol Marty

    Actually I misspoke. I didn’t mean unanimous; I meant a definite majority of those who called in to give public input when the Vance monument issue was before the council said that the monument should be torn down, not re-purposed, not even relocated. I was on those calls and I heard what everyone who called in said. Probably 90% of those who called in during the public comment period voiced that the monument should be replaced; even those who were historians and who like to preserve history. Where is that information in MountainXpress’s reporting? There’s lots of after the fact reporting that’s supporting voices who did not provide public comment during the period when they had the opportunity to do so. Case closed.

  5. Stan Hawkins

    To James (reply order not synced for some reason.)

    I completely understand your losses as you have described in our history. Lines drawn in Western North Carolina, as recorded in history, were very much not in sync with the rest of the conflict. I had relatives who fought and killed each other, relatives who helped runaway slaves, and a conscripted Great Great Grandfather who died in military hospital in Petersburg Va 1862.

    Asheville stood out more in the support of the Confederate cause with slave trading downtown, involving economic matters, politics as usual.. This was wrong without question. I understand why the monument is offensive to some, depicts history to others, and is a reminder to other WNC natives – that all of WNC did not agree with the rebellion. I hope our actions today will not erase that true history of this area we now reside.

    While it was a Northerner and friend of Vance who financed the stone structure and donated the land, isn’t it odd that we don’t have anyone looking in to that? Why would he do that? I am a county resident and don’t care what happens to the stones, and have no loyalty to them. If the demolition of the monument brings peace and prosperity to the community as a whole, then so be it.

    I do care that people have the right to dissent and speak freely. If the “war between the states” comment offends you, I regret that. To be clear, it was a war of rebellion.

    Thanks for your post.

    • Peter Robbins

      Cheer up, Stan. Your worry that memory of the Civil War will fade without stone reminders of Confederate greatness now can be tested empirically. In the last year, Zeb Vance has disappeared from an elementary school in Asheville and apparently is about to depart from the downtown. Marse Robert has left the centers of Asheville and Marshall. Similar developments have occurred across the country and the state. Yet you remember (and still stew over) a perceived insult to Confederate honor that (you imagined) you saw in something I wrote three-and-a-half years ago. The terrible harms caused by the insurrection and its leaders may have made a similar impression. Six hundred thousand (or more) deaths tend to do that. But do check back if your find significant evidence of blackouts amongst your peers. Maybe we can send them a pamphlet or something.

      • Stan Hawkins

        Your freedom of expression is well noted – and you know it is. Oh, but no need to worry on about my cheeriness – but thanks anyway.

        As a great soldier once said; “Duty is ours; consequences are God’s.

        Be well

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.