I have to admit I was surprised but not shocked when newly-elected Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, still in the early months of his first term, decided to declare April as Confederate History Month, celebrating "the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War," and how their "fight for independence" helped shape present-day Virginia and the rest of the nation.
Well, heck. There's so much there I hardly know where to begin.
As a former longtime resident of the Old Dominion -- I went to college there, and spent the first seven years of my career working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch -- I'm not quite sure exactly why the governor felt compelled to make the declaration. I mean, it's not as though sympathetic residents of Virginia ever stopped celebrating, studying or honoring their Confederate heritage.
Take Monument Avenue, for example, one of Richmond's crown-jewel landmarks, a beautiful boulevard that's chockablock with statues honoring Confederate heroes from the familiar (Robert E. Lee, JEB Stuart) to the obscure (Oceanographer Matthew Maury). Then there's the Lee Bridge. And Jefferson Davis Highway. And Lee-Jackson-King Day, a cognitive-dissonance, only-in-Virginia state holiday honoring two Confederate generals and civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. (he got stapled on to the holiday as a sop to the black community, much the same way tennis legend and Richmond native Arthur Ashe's statute was a backhanded, 20th-century addition to Monument Avenue). And the Confederate History Museum, which was a few blocks away from where I live. And the re-enactors who dress up in period costumes and lay wreaths at Lee's statute on the date of his birth.
It led me to wonder what's next: Slavery Appreciation Week? Klan Day at Richmond Stadium -- free hoods to the first 500 whites through the turnstiles. Massive Resistance special-edition license plates? What about giving a nod to King's assassin with Lee-Jackson-King-Ray-Lee Day? Has nice ring to it.
I could go on, but you get the point. Actually, the NYTimes' Gail Collins does a much better job of it.