When most Americans think of the Civil War, they consider it quite possibly the most traumatic war this country ever went through. The reason being that it was a war where Americans were killing Americans. Mary Todd Lincoln, the first lady at the time, had many male relatives who were fighting for the Confederacy. By the time Lee surrendered at Appamatox, at least 618,00 soldiers had died in the name of this war. Shortly thereafter however, it was clear that the nation's wounds were not completely healed when President Lincoln would be shot, Reconstruction would be an abject failure and African Americans would be subjected to 100 more years of oppression in the South.
However, these facts seem to have escaped Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, who this week, declared the month of April to be Confederate History Month. Virginia is the state where the Confederacy's capital was located and was where many crucial battles took place. McDonnell on his website claimed that "this was a defining chapter in Virginia's history that should not be forgotten but rather studied, understood and remembered by all Virginians both in context of the time in which it took place but also in the context of the time in which we live."
While it is indeed important to study this time as a part of American history, to glorify the actions of men who seceded from the Union and as a result caused the bloodiest war ever to occur in American history is insensitivy on behalf of the Governor. Furthermore, When McDonnell was probed in an interview about the study of Slavery in the Confederacy, McDonnell claimed it was not significant enough to discuss, saying "Obviously [the conflict] involved slavery" but that there were "other issues" and that he focused on the ones that were most "significant" to Virginia.
McDonnell's statements not only reflect insensitivity but also ignorance of the history of his state. Production of Cotton through Slave Labor in the colonies and eventually the states possibly originated in Virginia. Not to mention the fact that when the South was engaged in the Civil War, other countries suffered a brief shortage of American textile. In America's formative years, cotton production was given the moniker "King Cotton." Not to mention that almost all of the significant historical figures from Virginia up to and including the Civil War were slaveholders, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and General Robert E. Lee. One of the main reasons why Virginia left the Union was because they were concerned the abolition of slavery would send the cotton industry into a tailspin, thus harming their vitality.
However, the greatest and probably the most damning quote in McDonnell's waxing of Confederate Glory is claiming that it must be understood in "both the context of the time in which it took place but also the time in which we live in." Why should we study it in the time in which we live in? We are not living in a time where there is an issue anywhere near as divisive as the issue of slavery, unless McDonnell is counting the outrage on the right about the healthcare bill that largely people of his ilk have generated.
Furthermore, this time is quite possibly one of the most shameful eras in our country's history. It was a time when we troves of people to a foreign land to work on plantations for incentive of their own and for the benefit of rich aristocrats. This nation has come so far from those dark years; so much so that a year and a half ago, we overcame our long history of discrimination when we elected an African American to the highest office in the land, not to mention the fact that he carried the state of Virginia.
Mr. McDonnell's statements praising this time is not only an insult to all of those who died on the battlefield but also spitting in the face of all of the progress we made in spite of people like himself and the Confederates. In addition, by honoring these men, we are honoring traitors and men who betrayed their country. How can we in good conscience honor those who betrayed this nation as heroes? Do we venerate the Tories and the Loyalists? Do we pay tribute to Benedict Arnold or Aaron Burr? By dedicating a month to honor traitors, Mr. McDonnell is committing treason against the United States of America and to the very ideas of America.
It seems like daily, Americans are bombarded with questions about President Obama's Patriotism or whether or not Nancy Pelosi secretly hates America. Yet how is it that we cannot question McDonnell's love for his country when he is honoring the memory of one of the most disgusting times in American history?