The Gen. Joseph E. Johnston statue that has stood in the middle of downtown Dalton for 108 years is a landmark, a monument that has become controversial in current times.
I keep asking myself what social problems will this solve by relocating one of Dalton’s older landmarks. That’s what I see it as, a landmark.
As I got more involved with the statue, I have gotten the chance to speak with the more seasoned residents. Those residents tell me stories. When they were young in the late 1930s, it’s where they got to rest on the way to their grandparents’ house. In the late 1970s, it’s where another person used to cruise in and hang out with their friends, and where a couple shared their kiss on a first date.
For some, these are memories. It’s not just memories for people that times have come and gone either. Lots of new memories have been made recently. I see a lot of camaraderie between those that stand guard or wish to just come downtown just to see it before something happens. I see lots of information and conversation from both sides.
I have had deep conversations with both sides. The statue starts a dialogue. I understand to some it may symbolize dark times, but do we hide this from generations to come? I ask that you research who Johnston was and maybe then you may feel different. Still, there is no clear answer as to how this will solve a racial issue here in Dalton.
This is a hot issue today, but five years ago, a diverse group of students from Morris Innovative High School chose to paint a mural on a downtown Dalton building of four other influential people of Dalton. That mural included Johnston. I don’t recall an outrage nor do I see anyone asking to remove or change it currently.
Relocation of the monument will not solve any known racial issues. It seems like it would be a big waste of money and that could arguably be taxpayer dollars to move it and erect a new monument. We must ask ourselves why, and why now? Is this a move to make minority residents feel better or is this a hot topic, a politically correct move to elevate and further the political and social status of some those involved? I look at the political status of those involved and can’t help but wonder the latter. There must be reasons, reasons we may never know.
Moving the monument to the Huff House wouldn’t be beneficial in any way and is almost like hiding a part of Dalton’s history. Instead of pointlessly spending all of this money from an unclear source, couldn’t we build instead of tearing down? We could allocate these funds to a new monument in another location perhaps to celebrate Dalton’s culture.
Furthermore, what is disconcerting is the leadership’s lack of accepting community input. It was almost as if the decision was made instantaneously or in a backroom meeting. Taxpayers should get as much of a say so as the ones that are working on the relocation, the small elite that are using their privileges that they advocate against, to bypass taxpayer input on the matter.
My desire to see the Joseph E Johnston monument stay where it is should not be the only decision because it is not solely up to me. I feel it should be left up to community decision, not just our leadership, not just the small group advocating for removal, but the community seeing both sides and making a decision to make the better of our history, future and generations to come.
Rocky Face resident Tyler Martin is an administrator for the Facebook group “Don’t Let Joe Go.”