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The comparison might sound a bit trivial, given the weight of debate over the lingering images of the Confederacy in this state and nation. But here goes, nonetheless.

Say you're a born-and-bred Arkansas Razorbacks fan. You have all the necessary paraphernalia to show your support -- yard ornaments, decals and streamers on your car, a wardrobe of Razorback red, the whole shebang.

Most of your neighbors show the same steadfast devotion to the Hogs.

But there's this smaller contingency of folks who live in your town and wear the colors of some opposing team, maybe LSU or even old rival Texas. They decorate their homes to glorify these Arkansas foes, declaring the same loyalty to them as you do to the Razorbacks.

You and your buddies speak openly about "hating" Texas or Alabama or any one of the other teams. You flinch when you see the burnt orange or purple and gold. It is particularly irritating when all those images emanate from the next-door neighbor's property or person.

Now imagine yourself in the shoes of the neighbor whose passion for his or her university or state you malign day in and day out.

Remember, too, that these people see Razorback red everywhere they look and are constantly reminded that their own heritage isn't so welcome here.

How do you think they feel about such in-your-face taunts?

Saner sports fans can set aside the rivalries and see a football or basketball game, or any other of the sports events, as entertainment. They may even tailgate with their "foes" after a game, reliving the experience of major college sports.

Some fans cannot navigate that environment. Perhaps emboldened by alcohol, they act out, sometimes even criminally.

They're the extremists, the ones law enforcement must protect us against, the sort of people no one should want carrying a weapon into a stadium or arena (or anywhere else).

Even sports, or sports fans, can take a threatening turn. Most don't, but some do.

Apply that same sort of understanding to the much more grave conversation that continues in this state and nation about race and the symbols of the Confederacy.

The debate pits neighbor against neighbor, with huge differences in intensity.

The truth is that Confederate monuments are mostly ignored by many of us who live among them. They're just there, silent sentries to the past, prompting little if any response. We may or may not know who they celebrate or why or when they came to be.

But they clearly engender strong sentiment among others.

Some are the extremists, such as the hate-spewing marchers who recently turned Charlottesville, Va., into a crime scene.

The marchers were there ostensibly to protest threats to a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, although few believe that was the real motivation of the white nationalists who organized that rally.

Violence there resulted in many injuries and the death of a counter-protester run down by a white supremacist, provoking or renewing this tense national debate.

Central to it is President Trump's deplorable response last week. Like a bell that cannot be unrung, his words equating hate-mongers with those who stood up to them will hang over his presidency. That may really be the most enduring result of what happened last week.

But much of the debate has nonetheless been about those statues to the Confederacy, the physical remains of the Civil War.

The response to Charlottesville in Arkansas has certainly focused on the monuments, most notably in Hot Springs, although such statues are present elsewhere.

In Bentonville, for example, petitions are circulating both to protect and to remove the Confederate statue that stands on the downtown square. It is an argument that won't end soon.

Historic preservation is important. We learn lessons, good and bad, from the past.

But what some see as preserving history, others see as a constant, painful reminder of slavery and of oppression suffered since by generations of Americans.

It is that pain, or the slow realization of it by many in the wider population, that may ultimately cause some of the statues to come down or be relocated. Cities or other governmental entities that host the statues may come to grips with what's more important to them.

Again, take Bentonville as an example. Once a sleepy little mountain town, Bentonville is a thriving city known now not only as Walmart's home base but also for its world-class art museum and many other tourist-attracting amenities.

That city's real focus is on the future, not the past, and on making all visitors feel welcome.

The statue on the square may draw some of those visitors but it surely repels others. Sooner or later, that realization may propel the Bentonville statue's removal or relocation.

Similarly, the direct association of other Confederate statuary with protests may hasten their exit from public grounds.

A group that rallied around a Hot Springs monument was actually making its fourth demonstration of the year in the Spa City.

They were well outnumbered by counter-protesters, but that particular Confederate statuary is presently being associated more with these demonstrations than with its much more distant history.

Hot Springs is another city reliant on tourism. That community, too, may eventually face an economic reckoning over the symbolism it embraces.

Meanwhile, the debate rages on.

Commentary on 08/23/2017

Print Headline: Confederate complications

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