The Woodlands, September 22 – In response to the yellow journalism that took his comments out of context, Woodlands Township Chairman Gordy Bunch issued an apology video and statement yesterday afternoon in which he clarified his position regarding bringing removed historical statues of heroes of the Confederacy to The Woodlands Township. Bunch handled the situation extremely well and showed genuinely thoughtful leadership.
The context of the discussion
On Tuesday, September 19, 2017, State Senator Brandon Creighton gave a review of the 85th Legislative Session to the public at a meeting of the Texas Tea Party Patriots PAC. Towards the end of his remarks, Creighton mentioned his authorship of legislation to preserve Texas statues and monuments. Creighton has consistently made clear that his bill’s purpose is so that children and adults will learn from Texas and American history.
Bunch interjected into the discussion and stated, “It’s ridiculous what’s happening with efforts to relocate history in the form of these statues and monuments. We’re a new community relatively here in The Woodlands. Might I suggest that we relocate the removed statues and monuments here?”
Bunch never suggested erecting the statues and monuments in the center of parks throughout The Woodlands. Bunch never suggested that The Woodlands honor specific historical mistakes. In the context of recent discussions about establishing a public museum in The Woodlands, Bunch merely suggested relocation of the statues to this community in order to learn from history.
Neither Creighton nor Bunch mentioned any sort of support for the Confederacy, for slavery, for racism, or for the destruction of the United States of America. The news media took Bunch’s comments entirely out of context and turned them into implications which did not exist.
Do the statues and the monuments have a purpose?
The controversial statues and monuments of Confederate war heroes, such as General Robert E. Lee, whose statue the City of Dallas just removed from Lee Park, teach an important part of American history. Slavery of African-Americans was a terrible part of the American economy which dogged the Founding Fathers during the First Continental Congress from 1774 to 1775, the Second Continental Congress from 1775 to 1781, and the Constitutional Convention. The Founding Fathers of the United States made several compromises that didn’t rid this country of the shame of slavery nor did they emancipate the slaves.
Slavery is a part of American history that is a very negative part of our historical heritage. The treatment of African-Americans after the Civil War was terrible as well. There are aspects of states’ rights which remain fundamental aspects of the American federalist system of government. States rights concepts arose in order to protect individual rights. The United States as a whole, especially after the Missouri Compromise, suffered numerous terrible decisions which put an entire class of humans into abject misery.
At the same time, the Civil War has had a broad influence on our government, our legal system, and our culture. Anyone who has visited the National Military Parks at places such as Antietam (Maryland), Gettysburg (Pennsylvania), or Shiloh also known as Pittsburg Landing (Tennessee) will appreciate the profound impact the War had on American history. Students of the Civil War will also understand that the military conflict had an enormous effect on world history. Just look at the close relationship between fighting methods in the Overland Campaign and those utilized by both sides in World War I.
The statues and the monuments clearly have a purpose. There are troubling aspects to the monuments, however.
Americans have memorialized World War II, but we’ve also displayed horrific exhibits about the Holocaust inside the Third Reich during the war in which Nazi Germany killed six million European Jews, and millions of Poles, Romanians, and people of Slavic ethnicity. Those Holocaust museums have an important place in the United States, because they teach us the horrors of ethnic hatred and government overreach. At the same, how would Americans feel about erecting a statue of Adolf Hitler in the middle of downtown Houston?
Now, the Civil War monuments are far more complex. Many of the individuals memorialized were Americans and great contributors to American society after the Civil War. Two such examples are Robert E. Lee and Albert Pike. Pike is the only Confederate general whose statue appears in the District of Columbia, in Judiciary Square no less.
But Americans should understand how African-Americans view such monuments and statues. Those individuals memorialized in the statues fought for a cause which supported slavery of human beings who happened to be of African origin.
That individuals intellectually and even ethically as strong as Lee and Pike joined in the rebellion reveals the complexity of their actions and the weakness of mankind. This nation arose out of a rebellion, although one which clearly had far more moral perfection than the rebellion of the southern states during the Civil War.
Viewing Bunch’s actions in the right context
Gordy Bunch cares deeply about the future of The Woodlands. He’s established a major business operation in The Woodlands. He’s raising his family in The Woodlands. He’s contributed enormous time, intellect, and effort to making The Woodlands Township a better place. Anyone who has dealt with Bunch has seen that he is a thoughtful person who cares about the people in this community.
Bunch has shown great excitement in the recent past for the idea that museums will finally add to the cultural improvements in The Woodlands.
Clearly, Bunch’s comments about the monuments were the bubbling over of his excitement about history and museums coming to the community in which he has invested so much.
The Woodlands Township Chairman is sensitive to what a great community The Woodlands is, particularly in the conception of George Mitchell, its founder and developer, who foresaw the coming together of people from all walks of life, backgrounds, and cultures.
Bunch’s comments yesterday afternoon brought a dignified closure to this issue as far as he should be concerned. He apologized for the comments he made which the news media took out of context. Bunch was certainly at fault, partly, for giving the news media the opening. The video which he released showed the emotional sincerity with which he uttered the words.
Here’s Bunch’s statement:
“Message from Gordy Bunch, The Woodlands, Texas
“September 21, 2017
“RE: Article in Houston Chronicle
“I’m Gordy Bunch and I want to apologize for the comments I made at a meeting the other night regarding the potential moving of statues to our community.
“I want to provide context that the only interest that I would ever have in such divisive statues is if they could be used for education purposes in a museum setting where we could educate current and future generations regarding the failures of our past and our history. I do not condone or accept racism, hate groups, neo-Nazis, KKK or any divisive group. I’m not looking to celebrate the Confederacy; I’m not looking to divide our community. I believe that there is no support for relocation of these statues, whether in a museum or otherwise and I can commit that there is zero chance now that these items will ever set foot into our community.
“I apologize to the Township Board, our Township Staff, our residents in our business community for the negative headlines that this has caused. I want to make sure that all of our community knows that my only intent was to use these for education purposes. I even woke up my kids this morning and sat down with them and I had them read the article in the paper to make sure that I explained to them what I had in my heart and my mind. I think that we too often ignore past failures and I think if there would have been an opportunity to create dialogue and a venue where we could fully expose transparently the failures of our past and the things that we have worked through to come together as a state and a country that they might have had some potential value. I now see the error in that thought and I apologize again for creating this divisive issue within our community that so easily could have been avoided. I want to make sure that if you have any questions, I am happy to answer any of those and that our family, our community is committed to the diversity that George Mitchell envisioned.
“I stand behind our Proclamation on Diversity and Inclusiveness, in no way shape or form, wanted to convey that our community was a safe haven for the Confederacy. I do not believe that. I do not have that in my heart and I apologize and I do deserve the feedback that was given to me, given the nature of the article and the lack of context. I do accept responsibility for those statements. I hope that I have clarified what my intentions were and I want to also reiterate that there is no official offer to any entity to transfer statues, relics or plaques to our community. This was not a fully vetted idea. This was not ever on a Board Agenda. I was in a meeting where there was discussion regarding whether removal of plaques, statues and artifacts that ranged a number of different issues, not just Confederate issues and in the desire to try to populate, or have options to populate a museum, I made those comments, which now I see were divisive and hurtful and I apologize again for that.”
The video of Bunch’s remarks follows: