Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Virginia Governor McDonnell Commended for His Intellectual Dishonesty

The Confederate History Month proclamation that Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell issued last week continues to reverberate, at least in the minds of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

When the proclamation was first issued, they were all smiles. A "nail in the coffin of political correctness" they trumpeted.

But when the Governor added a paragraph on slavery to the proclamation, their smiles turned upside down. They yanked the proclamation off their website with a direction to "visit the Governor's site to read his revised proclamation."

And they added a resolution of their own that ends with this missile:

"THE VIRGINIA DIVISION, SONS OF CONFEDERATE VETERANS, does hereby commend Governor Robert F. McDonnell for the issuance of the Confederate History Month proclamation; and"

"THE VIRGINIA DIVISION, does hereby absolutely refute the claim that Confederate soldiers went to the field of battle for the sole purpose of preserving slavery as an intellectually dishonest argument; and"

"THE VIRGINIA DIVISION does not endorse any statement that the Confederacy existed entirely for the defense of slavery and considers such statements to be a detriment to the memory of the many Virginians who gave their lives to defend against the illegal federal invasion of the Commonwealth of Virginia in a long and bloody war."

There are several ways to look at this. One is that this neoconfederate effort to recast the causes of the Civil War is a dangerous whitewashing of history that may hide a secret racist agenda.

Another is that the revisionism is in some sense a good thing, as it shows any acceptance of slavery is no longer acceptable in our society. It's sometimes too easy to brand as racist, or too quick to find guilt by association. This may be nothing more than it purports to be, an interest in history colored by a personal connection of descendants to some of the participants in that history.

My view is that groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans can be proud of their heritage. No one should feel they can't be proud of their ancestors. I just don't think they need to try so hard to refute anything they regard as a blemish on their ancestors' honor.

There were blemishes on the honor of both sides in the Civil War. We can be proud of Abraham Lincoln, even though he was ready to amend the U.S. Constitution to preserve slavery in the existing slave states as a way to avoid war. We can be proud he kept the country together, even though the cost in lives of doing so was very high.

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