More revision than reconciliation 


More revision than reconciliationOnce again the banner of reconciliation has been raised in the name of revisionist glorification of slavery (Back Page, March 14). The racism and oppression directed at black people in Virginia betrays the lie of Tim Thornton's benevolent, assimilated society.

Robert E. Lee certainly did not help his home state in any way by fighting against the Union. If he had been successful, Virginia would have continued to enslave a large percentage of its population.

It would also have forfeited membership in the United States of America; a little detail often overlooked by reactionary nationalist Confederate heritage advocates.

We can see clearly 140 years later that an independent South, victorious as Lee and Jackson intended, would have been a political, economic and human rights disaster.

Thornton says Lee refused to lead "soldiers into battle against his kin and against people he regarded as his countrymen."

What a noble sentiment! Perhaps he should have extended this idea to African Americans. Thornton implies Lee paid the price for his treason by being stripped of his citizenship and having his mansion seized to be used as a Union graveyard. These punishments, designed to "harm" and "humiliate" Lee, were clearly not in proportion to the human suffering he and his cronies intended to preserve and perpetuate. Lee's adherence to the credo "to do his duty" was certainly manifested in the most sinister way.

The details of Stonewall Jackson's life in "One Nation Indivisible" were completely insipid, again losing perspective of just how evil his intentions were.

That Jackson wanted to subordinate his slaves to his version of Christianity can hardly be seen as benign. He may have never violated the Sabbath, but he and Lee had no problem with violating our country and millions of slaves in the name of their Ol' Dixie.

Virginia is seen as apologist if not flat out racist in its view of history. The glorification of the Confederacy is an international embarrassment which discourages tourism and encourages negative stereotyping of Southern whites.

To equate King's "mistakes " and "lapses in judgment" (one assumes Thornton is referring to King's alleged adulterous affairs) with Lee and Jackson's little oversight of plunging the country into civil war to defend slavery is just outrageous. Gov. Jim Gilmore would not invoke King's name so freely if he were alive today to support unions, oppose the death penalty or condemn our nation's violent foreign policy against Iraq.

There could be no understanding or reconciliation of the racial divide in Virginia when slave-holding war-mongers were honored on the same day as the descendent of a slave.

Every day in Richmond, black children walk through the doors of public schools named after men who owned their ancestors. It is not right to pretend that both blacks and whites are not internalizing the legacy of Lee and Jackson's slave regime. Let Lee and Jackson take their dishonorable, holiday-less places in history books and museums.

The challenge of King's unrealized dream of freedom demands full acknowledgment of white Virginia's criminal past before common ground can be found between the races.
Adam Nathanson


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