Create Virginia Heritage Day
If you have followed Bearing Drift over the years, you will note that I have expressed my dismay and displeasure at the practice of Virginia honoring Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. This year, instead of voicing displeasure, I am asking you to sign a petition to end the observance. The tradition to honor the two generals is more than a century old and began in 1889. Virginians began remembering Robert E. Lee nearly nineteen years following his death (and nineteen years following the end of federal military control). The holiday started while Fitzhugh Lee, Robert’s nephew and fellow confederate officer, was serving as governor. In 1904, Jackson’s name was added by the General Assembly to the observance. He was so honored during a time when poll taxes and literacy tests (aka “Jim Crow” laws) were being enacted. 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!