By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Why does Bob McDonnell hate America? The Virginia governor has gotten some deserved opprobrium for his recent declaration that April is "Confederate History Month." Specifically, people from across the ideological spectrum correctly object to his omission of slavery from his proclamation, apparently because he doesn't think that slavery was a "significant" issue for Virginia during the Civil War. Perhaps the good governor should follow his own proclamation and study history: the war was about slavery, and the commonwealth had nearly half a million slaves in 1860, according to historian Robert Mackey. And as Mackey notes, their Confederate heritage was "the lash, servitude, and a century of virtual slavery after 1865."
The problem here of course is the enduring romanticization of the Confederacy. Let's not forget what it was: an armed insurrection aimed at destroying the United States of America.
"Confederate History Month" is not new for Virginia, though McDonnell's two predecessors (Democrats, not surprisingly), halted the practice. And as a resident of Alexandria (though a New Yorker 'til the end), I can testify to the enduring Confederacy mania, from Jefferson Davis Highway to the Confederate Soldier Statue in the heart of Old Town, famously facing away from the federal city. And as a critical chapter in the nation's history, it deserves study and remembrance. But (taking facts and figures from Mackey here) let's remember everything: the half-million slaves; the nearly 60,000 free blacks; the more than 375,000 Virginians who chose to defend their country against armed treason, forming the state of West Virginia; and the thousands of white Virginians who fought for the Union.
And yes, let's remember the Confederacy, but not merely the romanticized, contended slave, honorable gentlemen, and charming belles fantasy that wasn't ever real enough to be "gone with the wind." This was a movement whose aim was the end of the United States, with the proximate cause being the "right" to hold other human beings in bondage. We so often hear about the importance of patriotism because we're a nation at war (OK, not so much now that the commander in chief is a Democrat), it's surprising there isn't more outrage about a governor commemorating a failed treason.
For myself, I'm going to take the advice a friend posted on Facebook this morning and instead of celebrating "Confederate History Month" will raise a glass to "Northern Victory Month." It's still a free country, after all.