Should a slave-holding Southerner in rebellion against his country and in support of a government that supports slavery be held up as a model of admiration?
If you said “No,” then you have just disqualified George Washington.
After all, the American Revolution was a rebellion against Washington’s native country. He was a Southerner, and he did own slaves. And if you don’t think the colonies supported slavery, look at the Constitution’s infamous 3/5 Clause.
Because Americans won their independence, though, we look at Washington’s story through a different frame.
My point is not to denigrate Washington, who was truly THE best of us in our country’s history. Rather, I want to call attention to the frames we see things through, and I want to call attention to the need for well-rounded consideration of anyone in our history. We need to see them three-dimensionally, in all their highs and lows, rights and wrongs. When we do that, the saints and the rogues all have something to teach us.
The challenge is to understand the people of our past as products of their times and not judge them by the values of ours. When we can do that, we can all have better conversations that lead to richer understandings.