I’ve written a few times in the past about the oddity that is Virginia’s celebration of Lee-Jackson Day, a holiday honoring Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee that, for some bizarre reason, is celebrated on the Friday before the day set aside to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. (see here and here, for example).
This year, J.R. Hoeft comes up with what strikes me as an eminently sensible alternative to a holiday whose time has passed:
To think that the day is based on innocent reverence for two heroes is simply not acknowledging the facts of history. At best, it’s a naïve approach to history; at worst, it’s something more sinister.
Additionally, regardless of how you feel about the confederacy, slavery, or the two men in particular, an exclusive day for them makes very little sense:
* There are no days – national or at the state level – honoring any general (or admiral) who has worn the cloth of their country.
* There are no days in Virginia honoring any of the other numerous heroes who have called the commonwealth home.
However, this is academic. The crux of the argument always goes back to what Lee and Jackson chose to fight for: their home state of Virginia, which was at war because it wanted to defend its right to self-determination on the issue of slavery.
If Virginia is ever going to move beyond the days of racial prejudice and towards Jefferson’s more perfect union, where all men are truly created equal, then we must take action to alter this holiday.
Therefore, in an appeal to Governor Timothy M. Kaine and the General Assembly, please join in signing the following petition to end the observance of Lee-Jackson Day, and create a new holiday: Virginia Heritage Day. On this day, all of Virginia’s rich and storied history can be celebrated, honored, and added to for as long as the commonwealth exists. Sic Semper Tyrannis!
Given the fact that there’s much more about Virginia’s rich history worth celebrating beyond two Generals who chose to participate in what was ultimately an act of treason against the Union, this sounds like a great idea to me.
Lee and Jackson were not bad men. But bad men used their legacies to defend their bad policies of segregation and Jim Crow. That Lee-Jackson Day was created was a disservice to their legacy and all those who fought for state rights.
How on earth is taking the day and making it one to honor ALL Virginians and their heritage, the history of the Commonwealth and her people possibly be a bad thing? How is acknowledging our flawed history trying to hide our past and cover it up?
When something is wrong is must be fixed. This is wrong, people, to the history of Virginia and all who have lived here. Let’s fix it.
What he said goes double for me.
Why do Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson deserve a state holiday and not Washington, Henry, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Marshall ?
H/T: Vivian Paige