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Yes, Virginia, you did lose that war

April 7, 2010

In all honesty, I did not harbor any particularly strong feelings, favorable or otherwise, towards Virginia’s new Republican Governor McDonnell. But the return of “Confederate History Month” seems a little ridiculous. No, he could not have called it Civil War History month. That title might mislead people into using April to make sober reflections on a critical juncture in American history, rather than restoring a public relations stunt for a long-dead treasonous regime in service of the culture wars.

The resolution sensibly enjoins Virginians to appreciate the vast wealth of historical sites of the Civil War era, but, interestingly enough, glosses over why there was a Confederacy or a war in the first place. As the NPR article states, it is well and good that this resolution mentions no “War of Northern Aggression,” “War of Southern Independence,” or even the almost bland and unobjectionable “War Between the States.” But no mention of slavery or hint of reservation about attempting to dissolve the union and starting a war in the process? That is willful ignorance, not useful historical examination.

It is always funny when people chalk objections such as mine up to ignorance or snobbish dismissal of “Red State” culture. Well, if you asked Lincoln (or any Republican President after him up until rather recently), Republicans had no need to celebrate “Southern heritage” or cherish Confederate history. It is even better to see the same sorts of people who rail against treasonous political programs and flail against their opponents destroying America as we know it endorse or serve as apologists for efforts to laud the Confederate States of America. Oh well – I guess it is just time for the North to make April “Union Victory Month” and we can call it even.

Edit: McDonnell, for the record, did add in a clause about the role of slavery in the war. Good on him, and it would be  better if more with nostalgia for the Stars and Bars did the same. And it is also worth noting, that while many Confederate soldiers and officers were not fighting for slavery (just as many soldiers in the totalitarian states of WWII were not fighting for the ideologies of their leaders), it is impossible to celebrate the Confederacy in public office without avoiding this issue.

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