Georgia State Rep. Tommy Benton (R) thinks efforts to end state holidays celebrating the Confederacy are on par with terrorist acts committed by the so-called Islamic State.
"That's no better than what ISIS is doing, destroying museums and monuments," Benton said in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I feel very strongly about this. I think it has gone far enough. There is some idea out there that certain parts of history out there don't matter anymore and that's a bunch of bunk."
Benton is upset about a bill recently introduced by Georgia State Sen. Vincent Fort (D) that would bar the state from commemorating holidays "celebrating the Confederate States of America, its history, or the military or political leaders thereof." It would eliminate the observance of Confederate History Month in April, which only a handful of Southern states continue to honor.
Refusing to honor racist militants is, of course, not at all akin to what ISIS does. ISIS has bombed UNESCO World Heritage sites in Palmyra, Syria. and destroyed countless ancient artifacts in Syria and Iraq. These are atrocities against history.
There have also been atrocities in American history, including a horrific civil war that the Southern Confederacy fought to preserve a system that enslaved and killed millions of people. But Benton isn't having that.
"The war was not fought over slavery," Benton told the AJC. (He is wrong.)
And according to Benton, while the terrorists in ISIS are super bad, white terrorists in the Ku Klux Klan need to be considered in a more generous context. The KKK “was not so much a racist thing but a vigilante thing to keep law and order," Benton said.
"It made a lot of people straighten up," Benton told AJC. "I'm not saying what they did was right. It's just the way things were," he added. "A great majority of prominent men in the South were members of the Klan."
Benton has introduced legislation to prevent Confederate statues and memorials from being removed and to codify Robert E. Lee's birthday as a state holiday. Lee, while often lionized as a polite southern gentleman, led a racist army that kidnapped and enslaved free black citizens during its northern campaign to Gettysburg (while fighting a war to protect slavery). Benton would also designate April 26 "Confederate Memorial Day" and rename parts of Martin Luther King Boulevard in Atlanta after a Confederate officer and Klansman.
Benton is a retired middle school history teacher, which… well. Yikes.
Zach Carter is a co-host of the HuffPost Politics podcast "So, That Happened." Subscribe here or listen to the latest episode below: