Saturday, April 10, 2010

Whereas April is the Cruelest Month for Celebrating Confederate History

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, darling of the Republican Party election victories of November 2009, put his foot into it this week when he issued a proclamation declaring April Confederate History Month in Virginia.

Two clauses in the Governor's proclamation raised eyebrows. One clause describes the Civil War as a "four year war between the states for independence." I could wonder at some length about whose independence from what is being talked about, but I'll let that go.

Another calls upon "all Virginians to reflect upon our Commonwealth's shared history, to understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War."

I'd call on Virginians to reflect on the stupidity of the Confederate leaders' shared groupthink in leading the South into a ruinous war, but that's probably a lost cause, at least among the group that requested this proclamation, the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

And I'll reflect that the term "citizens" meant only white residents. The sacrifices of black residents during or before the Civil War apparently not being worthy of notice. That failure to include any acknowledgment of slavery proved to be a big problem for McDonnell. After a few days of waffling, he apologized by adding a clause to his proclamation:

"WHEREAS, it is important for all Virginians to understand that the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians are thankful for its permanent eradication from our borders, and the study of this time period should reflect upon and learn from this painful part of our history."

If you go to the website of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, you will find a copy of the Governor's original proclamation. But they haven't found time yet to update their website to add the new slavery clause. Look for that in May at the earliest and at the latest, never.

This unintentionally ironic statement has also not been removed from their website: "If the proclamation does anything, it hopefully will be a nail in the coffin of political correctness, an insidious disease infecting our nation."

And what makes April so special in Confederate history? In Virginia, it's the month that the legislature voted to secede from the Union in 1861. It's also the month that Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia in 1865. Virginia is hoping to reap an influx of tourists when the 150th anniversary of the Civil War begins next year.

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