I applaud Larry Clayton’s Aug. 18 column, “The Past Requires Context, Not Erasure.” Erasing history is, indeed, like removing a part of ourselves.

I understand how monuments to people who owned or condoned slavery in antebellum times is offensive and insensitive to those whose ancestors were held in sordid bondage. But such monuments and memorials weren’t erected to glorify the ignorance in their mistake of supporting slavery. Robert E. Lee and others among Confederate heroes failed miserably at perpetuating that institution. Instead, they’re memorials to their positive traits and exceptional feats.

History is filled with the miserable mistakes of fallible human beings, and so, the better part of community life is overcoming our human foibles in pursuit of a better, more enjoyable society. The American Idea was compiled precisely for that purpose, moving its individual citizens into a better life and the nation into a more perfect union. Though it emerged in a time or context of slavery, slavery has always been antithetical to its principles. And so too was the racial segregation that followed slavery’s abolishment in America. Those entanglements, though, were parasitic, not intrinsic.

We have truly come a long way in applying the American Idea across the traditional barriers of race and gender. But we won’t get much further along by erasing the past; its lessons are too valuable. Our best course is to use past mistakes as stepping stones and unify under the American Idea wherein everyone, regardless of race or gender, has the right to rise.