I like to think of myself as a historical junky, not that I know all things about everything, but I do know most political issues have an agenda that contains a subliminal messages designed to alter reality. Thought Provoking Perspectives is a vehicle that provides me a forum to express a point of view and this issue is one that begs commentary. The new Conservative Republican Virginia Governor, Robert F. McDonnell, this week issued a proclamation proclaiming April as Confederate History Month. However, he excluded any mention of that “little thing” called slavery, which was the primary reason the war was fought.
As a result, an immediate a barrage of nationwide criticism came for the exclusion causing the Governor to modify the proclamation conceding that it was “a major omission” acknowledging the states complicated past. I must admit, my first reaction to the initial proclamation was, this was just another veiled attempt to rewrite history like what is being done in Texas where the Conservatives are rewriting text books about history to fit their agenda? I am not opposed to rewriting history but I am not a proponent of HIS-story, which is what this was designed to do.
McDonnell said he left out any reference to slavery in the original proclamation because he wanted to include issues he thought were most “significant” to Virginia. He also said the seven paragraph document was designed to promote tourism in the state because next year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. In the first paragraph of the proclamation it says “the people of Virginia” joined the Confederacy in a war “for independence” and “fought for their homes and communities and Commonwealth.” The proclamation urged reflection on their “sacrifices” because it was too bad they were “ultimately overwhelmed” by the North’s “insurmountable” resources.
How does one, anyone, interpret this statement or his decision to declare April Confederate History Month? Was he referring to the, nearly 50% of Virginia’s population at the time, who were owned and held in bondage as beasts of burden, raped, beaten, starved or taken away from their families and sold? Or maybe he though being a slave was an honorable duty. How could he not realized the insensitivity of this action would cause a firestorm as national media, and rightly so, to descend upon Richmond as Democrats and African Americans accusing the new governor of ignoring the state’s role in slavery. After all it was the home of the Confederate Capital.
As the usual suspects were paraded out to voice their displeasure concerning the governor’s position he issued a mea culpa for the document’s exclusion of slavery. “The proclamation issued by this Office designating April as Confederate History Month contained a major omission. The failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake, and for that I apologize to any fellow Virginian who has been offended or disappointed.” He didn’t quite say it explicitly but it sure sounded like the same old racist position of state’s rights. There is no other way to interpret it.
To that point: “There was a right side and a wrong side in the late war, which no sentiment ought to cause us to forget.” — Frederick Douglass, 1878.
I wondered; does he really believe his original position or was he furthering the conservative’s mission as to what Virginia’s Republican Party stands for when it comes to the state’s African American and other minority citizens. Was this a formal admission that effectively endorsed the South’s cause in the Civil War with the suggesting that it will rise again? Nowhere did the original statement did it condemn or even acknowledge the fact that the South was fighting primarily to defend a society based on slavery, as the Confederacy’s own leaders said at the time.
To Donnell’s credit, he did admits to the lack of any reference to slavery was a “major omission.” He did amend the proclamation to say that “the institution of slavery led to this war, and was an evil and inhumane practice.” It must be stated that he only modified the original proclamation under severe pressure from almost all quarters when he added a vital new paragraph clarifying his original proclamation for the Confederate History Month, which in reality was treason as a result of their succession.
It is crucial that we not, from my perspective, afford any admiration to the Confederacy with the explicit admission that it fought for a repugnant cause. Here’s a historic parallel. I’d say that during Hitler’s rein the holocaust was the worst crime administered by an abhorrent government and one of the worst crimes known to man. In my opinion, the Confederacy ranks a few notches down from Nazism in the hierarchy of immoral regimes and dare I say crimes against humanity.
It’s important to keep in mind that, for many Virginia conservatives, tea bagger, and wingnut today’s struggles against or acceptance of a Black Man as President of the union they succeeded from is really a continuation of the efforts by Jefferson Davis and other secessionists. In a Washington Post interview the first lieutenant commander of the Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which lobbied McDonnell to issue the proclamation said, “They were fighting for the same things that people in the ‘tea party’ are fighting for now.”
The modern day Rebel also said, “he’d favor seceding again and tonight is not soon enough” — because of high taxes, illegal immigration and energy legislation. He called today’s government as a “War of Northern Aggression”. This is pretty far out particularly when he stated that the Confederacy and slavery was a “tired old argument” regardless of the historical facts. This is a pretty good indication that one would consider this as a group’s on the political fringe with talk of secession.
I would just remind him of this vivid account provided by the Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens in 1861. He said, the Confederate government’s “foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural . . . condition.” Quotes like that make me wonder whether it’s ever justified to honor the Confederate “heritage” at all particularly as I know the KKK was born from this linage.
“Governor McDonnell’s decision to designate April as Confederate History Month without condemning or even acknowledging, the pernicious stain of slavery or its role in the war disregards history. It is insensitive to the extraordinary efforts of Americans who died trying to eliminate slavery and bind the nation’s wounds, and offends millions of Americans of all races in all parts of our nation” – not to mention all sane reasonable thinking human beings.
It is a matter of truth that a full accounting of the era must include a discussion of slavery and its lingering effects. So for all those who think this is now a post racial society and that racism no long exists – think again.
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