"A Four Year War ... for Independence."

That's how Gov. Bob McDonnell describes the Civil War in a proclamation recognizing April as "Confederate History Month" in honor of Virginia's secession from the Union.

I don't totally understand why Republicans seem to think that the Confederacy's willingness to wage war against the United States in order to preserve the institution of chattel slavery is something that should be lionized. But it seems to me that if you're going to "honor" what Confederate soldiers fought for, you should at least have the honesty to acknowledge what exactly that was -- the "freedom" to own black people as property. Anything less is cowardice.

McDonnell says in his proclamation that "this defining chapter in Virginia’s history should not be forgotten, but instead should be studied, understood and remembered by all Virginians." But I'm not sure how you can remember all Virginians with a statement like this:

[A]ll Virginians can appreciate the fact that when ultimately overwhelmed by the insurmountable numbers and resources of the Union Army, the surviving, imprisoned and injured Confederate soldiers gave their word and allegiance to the United States of America, and returned to their homes and families to rebuild their communities in peace, following the instruction of General Robert E. Lee of Virginia, who wrote that, “...all should unite in honest efforts to obliterate the effects of war and to restore the blessings of peace."

So not only does McDonnell venerate those who took up arms against their own country, he does so without acknowledging that the institution for which they fought was the right to preserve the right to own human beings as slaves. He then papers over the horrors of reconstruction, lynching, and Jim Crow that followed.

This isn't a coincidence. There is no place in which a frank acknowledgment of the realities of the South prior to the Civil War or immediately following can possibly coincide with a veneration of the Confederacy. So McDonnell just leaves that history out. When McDonnell talks about "all Virginians," it becomes painfully clear that he isn't.

-- A. Serwer

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