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On Treason


Over at 1945 I pour forth my thoughts on treason, forgiveness, and one Robert E. Lee:

But we do not build statues of and pile honors upon people who are merely excellent at some skill.  To understand the meaning of the removal of Lee’s statue, we must take into account the purposes to which he put his great skills. Lee was a traitor, and being a traitor is complicated. Treason is perhaps the least heinous of the mortal sins; Washington and Adams and Jefferson were all traitors, as was De Gaulle, and Alcibiades, and Brutus and Cassius, and a great many others who we may find admirable. But the evaluation of one’s treason depends on its purpose and its consequences. Washington’s treason is justified because it succeeded in creating something, and because we regard its purpose as noble. De Gaulle’s treason helped usher in the defeat of Nazi Germany; the jury remains out on Cassius and Brutus.

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