07 April 2010

updated hypothetical

McDonnell fixes his image, sort of

I'm not so sure that it's still necessary to have specifically a "Confederate history month", a Civil War history month and an expansive look at the issues of slavery and states' rights might be sufficient, and how these issues were resolved and at what cost (both to Virginia and to the Union as a whole). There's a speech in Gettysburg (a civil war film which is a little less overtly pro-Southern than the other one Turner funded later focusing on Jackson) which describes the war I think in a way that captures the problem with ignoring the slavery part of the question and focusing on a Confederate only view. I'd assume "Johnny Reb" would get annoyed if Maine decided to have a Yankee history month. I have enough problems with the way the Civil War is taught in history texts (and in particular with the way that Reconstruction isn't) without needing more pro-Southern folks who keep wanting to fight "the lost cause". These were the people who wanted a Confederate history month in Virginia reinstated after 8 years of its apparently painful absence. It wasn't necessary to pay attention to them and ignore the feelings or passions of others who have devoted study and gained much (perhaps one could say, everything) as a consequence of that war.

Despite that, I'd have to agree here that McDonnell deserves some credit at drawing back and reconciling his image on this point. But only some for doing something which was, to our credit, politically necessary (issuing an apology and corrected statement to the initial revisionist version of history that he would otherwise have gladly signed on to). He could have instead dug in and pulled a Palin, simply ignoring reality and the politics of his situation. I'm pleased that he didn't and more importantly, that he acknowledged the stark importance that slavery must be placed in our history and heritage. An issue once deemed worth fighting and dying over should not be ignored in favor of a month of childish campfire songs celebrating a rebellion that was put down with tremendous cost to blood and treasure that would not have happened save for this one tragic flaw in our Constitution: that it did not erase away the legal capacity to own other human beings as property.
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