Monuments to Confederate soldiers are controversial. People use them as a badge of racism.

But my third great-uncle Granville died a prisoner of war in Chicago in 1864. He was 27. His mother, my namesake, grieved for him. He had brothers and cousins who fought in that war. There were soldiers on the other side who were nothing to them at that time, but whose descendants would later marry their descendants.

These men and the women who missed them and mourned them, they were real people. Their living and dying meant something. I see nothing wrong with remembering them.

The people who built these monuments were not, I believe, yearning for slavery. They were mourning their dead. They were thinking, perhaps with pride, of their sons and brothers and friends and husbands.

They might have been struggling with the scraps of their lives, suffering as they coped with a new life as a conquered people. But the wrong that some people do now near these monuments should not be imputed to the monuments themselves.

Near this particular monument is a monument to soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War. Was that a nobler cause? Hardly. Was it a less horrible event? Certainly not.

Maybe some of the monuments must be removed, because they have developed histories that are harmful to their communities. But I hope that we can remember what they meant to the people who raised them, more than what they mean to the people who have perverted their meaning.