Let freedom ring? Who could say no?

A Stone Mountain police officer separates a man stomping on the Confederate flag from a large group of flag sympathizers rallying at Stone Mountain Park, Aug. 1. (Photo / John Amis)

A Stone Mountain police officer separates a man stomping on the Confederate flag from a large group of flag sympathizers rallying at Stone Mountain Park, Aug. 1. (Photo / John Amis)

If you’re against freedom, please stop reading now.

Still with me? Good, then you shouldn’t object to this statement:

Of course freedom should ring from Stone Mountain.

Too much of the debate over a plan to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at Stone Mountain Park has concerned legalities, hypocrisies and indignities. I invite you instead to think about it as a simple question: Do we or don’t we value freedom together, however we might celebrate it separately?

Seen that way, memorializing one of Georgia’s most famous sons with a Liberty Bell replica atop its most famous geologic feature is ingenious. It pays homage to King through his broadest appeal: that America should make good on its promise of liberty to all Americans.

It is disappointing that this plan met with objections not only from those who don’t want the Confederacy associated with King but those who don’t want King associated with the Confederacy. It is also tiresome and predictable.

If there is anything truly dangerous about the times in which we find ourselves, it is our tendency to define freedom down. There will always be tension between competing interests — who controls the space between the end of my nose and the beginning of yours. Increasingly, though, the default assumption is that one person’s liberty can only grow, or even hold steady, at the expense of another’s.

Under such an assumption, an offensive statement is not a chance to celebrate one’s right to speak out against it but an excuse to curtail the offender’s own right to speak. Religious liberty and the rights of LGBT persons are assumed to be in conflict because neither side trusts the other to know when or where to stop. You can probably think of other examples.

Maybe the simple monument envisioned for Stone Mountain runs into trouble because it breaks from that default assumption. Its design, location and inspiration instead bring a kind of physical harmony to three episodes central to a broad understanding of American freedom: the revolution, the Civil War and the civil rights movement.

That broader understanding is this: We do not have to agree with the pursuits or beliefs of others, but we must recognize and protect their freedom to act or think as they wish. Absent that recognition and protection, in fact, none of us is truly free.

Seen so broadly, it should come as no surprise that “let freedom ring” can be both a stirring refrain from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and a joyful chorus from a country song featured as theme music for Sean Hannity’s radio program. Whatever our differences, it’s a sentiment we keep in common.

So, let the Sons of Confederate Veterans honor their forebears as men who fought for “the preservation of liberty and freedom” as they conceived of it.

Let the Southern Christian Leadership Conference honor its founders as men and women who marched to extend liberty and freedom to those who lacked it.

And let a bell atop Stone Mountain remind us that, while freedom is sometimes unevenly enjoyed and poorly understood, the yearning for freedom is universal.

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63 comments
CaptainLouie
CaptainLouie

Elephant in the room, anyone? 


None of this discussion can move forward until you get "permission" and pay millions to the King Kidz.  


I'm in favor of this bell, as long as ANY AND ALL civil rights people are honored by it, not just King, and not just blacks. There were a lot of non-black people who helped fight for Civil Rights, why do some many blacks leave that out? 


And if The King Kidz start poking their greedy hands out, then leave King off it altogether.  Sorry, but it is what it is. He had a great message, damn shame he didn't share it with his own family, or they were too arrogant to listen. 




FIGMO2
FIGMO2

...those who don’t want King associated with the Confederacy. 

^^^ that would be me. Tiresome and predictable, I be.

I was anticipating a statue in the image of....but a bell? That's seems appropriate.

Don't think it'll soothe everyone's feelings though. I give you exhibit A. 

Just make sure that the Bell is placed in a way that those three general "hat-in-handers" will appear as if they are gazing surrenderingly conquered to the King as if they were looking at Ulysses Grant himself at  Appomattox.

Winners and losers. It's what society has come to expect. 

M H Smith
M H Smith

@FIGMO2 

Oh you're censor is sensitive to the truth now Kyle as it was earlier?

You can't change history by ringing some silly bell. 

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

I think among on your own peers, you are on the minority on this issue even though you are right. I am willing to concede on Stone mountain just so that pro-confederate folks can just chill out. The last thing they need is reasons to make them even more angry.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

Hey Kyle, how about the freedom to make your own choice when it comes to abortion? A woman's' body?

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @RoadScholar The next step of course is freedom for the sperm and egg ?


A fetus is not a human being anymore than a sperm is. Both have the potential mind you. But we don't outlaw contraceptives. 

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

@Kyle_Wingfield @RoadScholar

Are you cool with society ensuring that that unborn child / fetus has enough food to grow big and strong? And healthcare? And education?  Shelter? What happens if that unborn child / fetus grows into a lazy lout? Or is just born (and remains) stupid?  How far are we as a society willing to go to ensure that all the unborn children / fetuses we want to bring into this world have the wherewithal for a life filled with liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

Caius
Caius

M L King in his lifetime, and now after his death, has had an enormous impact on the United States. His influence on the US will continue for many more decades.


I believe the memorial planned, will it actually happen is another story, is a wonderful tribute to the idea of American freedom.


As an aside, my great, great grandfather was a soldier in the 5th Georgia Volunteers and died at Rome, GA of typhoid fever.  As far as I am concerned the CSA murdered my ancestor. 


LogicalDude
LogicalDude

Kyle,

I agree with this post. People will always disagree about something. But Freedom is a concept that may be lost on those who have never known a life without it. 

Unfortunately, the use of the term "Freedom" has been misused by many groups, most recently the "Freedom Caucus" who would rather move to shut down the government than compromise. 


"Religious Freedom" should have a narrow meaning with regards to the law, however, many have taken it to mean "be able to discriminate against gays."  And unfortunately, the more people keep saying it, the more it is believed by both sides of the argument. The simple "this bill will not allow anyone to discriminate against gays" clause should rectify any bill, but when the sponsor says that anti-discrimination guts the bill, then it's extremely hard to see how it's not meant to discriminate. (Yes, I've seen your article on this matter before.) 


For Stone Mountain,  I visited this weekend but didn't see any confederate memorabilia in the main gift shops. I didn't happen to go to the plantation area or confederate hall, so not sure if it's there or not.  I enjoyed the train and the "Ride the Ducks" along with other sights.  I hope to see "Let Freedom Ring" join the items of interest at the mountain. It's a part of the history of the state. 

straker
straker

point - "the only person the community has been allowed to honor"


Oh really?


Please tell us what evil powers have prevented the Black Community from honoring others.


Obama boulevard is fine with me.

jgrant888
jgrant888

Just make sure that the Bell is placed in a way that those three general "hat-in-handers" will appear as if they are gazing surrenderingly conquered to the King as if they were looking at Ulysses Grant himself at  Appomattox.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@bu2 @jgrant888 You realize the South did lose ?


I see the Confederates as traitors who took up arms and fired on the American flag

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

@Hedley_Lammar @bu2 @jgrant888  "I see the Confederates as traitors..."

Rebels, secessionists, yes. But "traitors" is an overreach. If they were traitors then so were the Minutemen who fired on the British flag. 

NorthAtlanta
NorthAtlanta

I really don't care whether they erect a memorial or not, but to try to pretend this isn't pandering is absurd.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

I don't care about the memorial. I think they were just trying to placate black people like myself who refuse to ever go there. I'm still never going.

Secondly, there is a lot of whining about Black people here, but you need to point the thumb as well.

You are up in arms about a memorial for people who BETRAYED America so they could continue to subjugate, beat and oppress black people in a war they LOST that ended 150 YEARS AGO. You never knew any of them and you never would have know them, so you have no connection whatsoever to them.

At least Kings family and friends are still alive and driving all these memorial projects. The only thing driving your strong feelings appear to be hate veiled in the name of your great, great, great, great, great uncle.

bu2
bu2

@JFMcNamara

The hate is coming from your 3rd paragraph.


And the past is closer than you think.  My wife's great grandparents lived through the war.  And she was pretty close to her grandmother, for whom "Sherman" was a 4 letter word not mentioned in polite company.

bu2
bu2

@JFMcNamara

If you used today's standards, General Sherman would be prosecuted for war crimes for his destruction of civilian property and efforts to starve the population.  To make Georgia "howl."  Yet he is viewed as a hero.


Its not reasonable to use today's standards to judge people, whether it be Union or Confederate leaders.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Well said Kyle, Freedom should be celebrated anywhere and everyday, for as long as we can keep it.


Once they finish with the Liberty Bell on Stone Mountain, I sure hope there is some enthusiasm for Freedom left over.  Maybe if there is enough enthusiasm left after this situation is resolved, then maybe we can use some of it to bring academic freedom to our college campuses and shut down the speech and thought police.  MLK was right, Let Freedom Ring!

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@RafeHollister academic freedom to our college campuses and shut down the speech and thought police.


There is Academic freedom at universities. An amazing amount.


At Bob Jones University not so much. 

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@RafeHollister 

Indeed.  Perhaps Congress can strike the funding for "campus thought police" from their next spending bill.

332-206
332-206

Those who would say no will appear here.

Hopefully, they will read the column more than once, and prove they can consider more than one side to an issue.

GMFA
GMFA

Honoring MLK at that site is the antithesis of what he stood for. I say leave it as is, Stone Mtn.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@GMFA "antithesis of what he stood for"


Did you hear him say "Let Freedom Ring at Stone Mountain"?  I think he'd support a Freedom Bell on Stone Mountain that bears his name and speech. 

scottw_
scottw_

If we put MLK at Stone Mountain, then we should erect a Confederate Monument at the MLK Center downtown. 

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

@scottw_

Rather, we should just end Stone Mountain's homage to the confederacy in toto. Confederate 'memorials' have no place in modern society other than in a museum and as a reminder to humanity about how not to live life.

Oh, and 'freedom' is just another word for 'nothing left to lose.'

straker
straker

Since Dr. King's death, there have been one honor after another given to him with street names, monuments and other things.


Is he the only one the Black Community can find to honor?


Point
Point

@straker  Maybe it is a case of the only person the community has been allowed to honor up to this point.  Since you would like additional honorees, I'm sure you will be happy with Obama Boulevard.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

Is George Washington the only person that white Americans can find to honor? Is Ghandi the only person Indians can find to honor?

We honor historical figures, and he is one. In addition, he is from Atlanta. Of course there is a lot of MLK stuff here.

MarkVV
MarkVV

Placing a permanent "Freedom Bell on top of Stone Mountain is a good idea, and it is difficult to understand why anyone would oppose it. So is inclusion of Marin Luther King’s quote "Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia" from his I Have A Dream speech of 1963. Stone Mountain is a natural feature, not something built by men for the purpose of the carving.

To destroy the craving, as some people have suggested, would be an act of cultural vandalism. We do not destroy such monuments because of a disagreement with what they represent. Christians do not (mostly) destroy statues of Greek, Egyptian or other gods because of a disagreement with the faith they represent, even if we sometimes believe those gods were abhorrent. We do not want to imitate ISIS..

But there is a curious ambiguity about the exhibits in the Stone Mountain Park. There is a “Memorial Hall,” often called Confederate Memorial Hall, in what is called “Confederate Hall Historical & Environmental Education Center,“ the ostensible purpose of which is, according to the website, “to educate Park guests and local students about the fascinating geology and ecology of Stone Mountain.”But geology and ecology of the mountain are neither “memorial” nor “confederate” subjects even with the inclusion of a documentary of the “History of the Civil War in Georgia.”

I believe the exhibits at the Park should have three sections – one showing the geology and ecology of the place, one the creation of the carving, and then a “Confederate Museum,” showing the true history of the Confederacy and its aftermath, including prominently the Articles of Georgia Secession with all those scornful attacks on anti-slavery policies, the Cornerstone Speech ofthe Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, statistics and images of slavery, history of KKK, statistics and images of lynching, the resurgence of KKK in Georgia, etc.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@MarkVV "To destroy the craving, as some people have suggested"

Kyle did not suggest this. And if it's suggested, I disagree with it as well. 

I'd support other carvings on the mountain to reflect the history of Georgia or even the US.  Limiting the mountain to the history of about 4 years of Georgia history is limiting this mountain that will stand for millenia. 

MarkVV
MarkVV

@LogicalDude @MarkVV I have not claimed that Kyle has suggested destroying the carving, and I am sure he would not do that.  But also I am not in favor of defacing any natural formation and, in this case,  of further work of that kind on Stone Mountain.  A Freedom Bell on top is another story.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

 It is disappointing that this plan met with objections not only from those who don’t want the Confederacy associated with King but those who don’t want King associated with the Confederacy. It is also tiresome and predictable.


What is more disappointing is they couldn't even use the name he is most identified with in their objection. But racism plays no part in all this right ?


Spot on Kyle. If we can have a monument to the Confederacy surely there is a spot for MLK as well. Especially considering he mentioned Stone Mountain specifically in his I have a Dream speech. 

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

@Hedley_Lammar

"Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring."

Using such logic, liberty bells need to be erected every place MLK mentioned in his speech, not just Stone Mountain.

Placing a monument to 911 victims in the Marietta National Cemetery where 12,000 Union veterans from the Civil War are buried makes as much sense.  One has nothing to do with the other.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@SaveAmericaFromItself @Hedley_Lammar  Using such logic, liberty bells need to be erected every place MLK mentioned in his speech, not just Stone Mountain.


No


But they are especially apt in the deep south especially at a place honoring those who fought hard to deny those rights he mentions in his speech. 

prarrd
prarrd

The Stone Mountain flap gives black people something new to complain about, until they find the next thing to complain about, like taking George Washington off the $1 bill since he was a slave owner, and complaining about Mt. Rushmore, and a zillion other things they love to complain about. 

Dr. Irving
Dr. Irving

@prarrd 

I'd have to say black people have quite a few valid complaints about they way they have been treated in America.

Do you disagree?

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@prarrd 

The Stone Mountain flap gives black people something new to complain about..."

Those people are always complainin', amirite?  Why can't they be like the rest of us, right?

bu2
bu2

Having spent most of my elementary years in Kentucky, they don't have the same us vs. them mentality about the war.  Its "us vs. us." It was fully a southern state with unionist tendencies.   If memory serves, Kentucky sent the 5th most soldiers to the Union army and 3rd most to the Confederates.  Several of Lincoln's brother-in-laws were officers in the Confederate army.  Lincoln mourned with Mary Todd's sister in the White House after her husband, a Confederate general died.


If Stone Mountain is to be a memorial to that time, it should honor all of us and not try to denigrate one side as evil or inferior or one side as unimportant and inferior.

prarrd
prarrd

MLK has a place to honor him. It's downtown. You can go visit there any time. He even has a street named after him. Go drive on it anytime. Stone Mountain is a different place, to honor the Confederates. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@prarrd Stone Mountain is a different place, to honor the Confederates. 


Honor them for what exactly ?

Hopeless in ATL
Hopeless in ATL

@prarrd Stone Mountain currently honors racism and hatred veiled (only thinly) by the fallacy of the Lost Cause.   

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@prarrd "Stone Mountain is a different place, to honor the Confederates. "

Why can't it be bigger than that? Why can't it be a place to honor all Georgians? 

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@prarrd 

"Stone Mountain is a different place, to honor the Confederates."

Did Confederates fight for freedom, or slavery, in you opinion?  If you picked "freedom", then let freedom ring!