Tuesday, April 6, 2010

McDonnell Declares Confederate History Month

Imagine my joy when this story started to make the national rounds:

Virginia's Republican Governor Bob McDonnell has declared April to be "Confederate History Month," the first time in 8 years that such a proclamation has been issued in the state.

In the statement, McDonnell says that the Confederate history "should not be forgotten, but instead should be studied, understood and remembered," and that its leaders "fought for their homes and communities and Commonwealth in a time very different than ours today."

I can almost understand the rationale for this if--and only if--it's done in an objective way. Let's assume for a minute that we do live in an ideal world where this is truly a study of the history of the Confederacy. What would that look like?

It might be good for us as Americans to remember how vulnerable freedom can be when powerful, unscrupulous interests take hold of a democracy, such as the slaveholding aristocracy that pushed the South into secession.

Maybe it would be instructive to recall that without rules to protect basic human rights, the free market might decide it's okay to do just about anything. Like when it decreed that it was okay to buy and sell other human beings as slaves, a practice that only ended after massive government intervention in the form of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments.

In this rancorous political climate, it would be especially salient to recall what happens when we give in to demagogues and the political process breaks down. Maybe the most militant Tea Partiers would do well to remember that the Confederacy lost one-fourth of its military-age male population in four years; another fourth was horribly wounded in the fighting. To this day, the Civil War is the single bloodiest conflict in American history, taking 600,000+ American lives. Maybe it would do Palin and Beck some good to know what they're really intimating when they use war rhetoric to frame their unhinged ideology.

But for some reason I doubt that's the point McDonnell is trying to make here. It sounds a lot more like a nod to the George Allen wing of the Virginia GOP. Under other governors, Confederate History Month has only served to divide, distract and inflame; unfortunately, it looks like the McDonnell/Cuccinelli team has been pretty good at that so far.

*Sigh*...it's gonna be a long four years.

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