What Day Is It? Depends On Where You Live

Today, of course, is not only the Martin Luther King, Jr., federal holiday, it is also Inauguration Day for the country’s first African-American president, now serving his second term.

Here’s how Google, our national unifier, is celebrating today:

google shot

Oh, and in some places in the South, today is also the day to celebrate a traitor:

Nothing, I suppose, shows how divided we are as Americans better than the sign above and the cult of Robert E. Lee it represents.

Almost three years ago I wrote:

I have always wondered why it is that so many people considered Robert E. Lee a hero, this disloyal Union officer who betrayed his country, who owned slaves and led men into battle to preserve the right of white men to buy and sell black families like cattle.

It is true that only a handful of states are involved in the travesty of mixing up a tribute to an African-American civil rights activist, who was shot and killed in the tumultuous 1960s, with a celebration of a man who turned against his own country and began shooting and killing Americans in the 1860s.

But as John Judis reminded us recently,

to a surprising extent, the Civil War divisions endure, and even supersede in this case the partisan divisions between Republicans and Democrats. 

Judis was talking about the recent fiscal cliff vote and how it broke down:

All in all, 85 Republicans voted for the Senate resolution and 151 voted against it. The opposition was centered in the Old South. Southern Republicans opposed the measure by 83 to 10. The delegations from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee, and South Carolina were unanimously opposed.

The deadly strain of rebellion that caused Southerners to turn against their country those many years ago is not the same as what we find manifested in that fiscal cliff vote or in the picture above, that’s for sure. But it is certainly related to it.

And it is still doing harm to the country.




  1. ansonburlingame

     /  January 21, 2013


    We held the debate over Lee a few years ago. Certainly, to the extent that Lee lead the fight to preserve slavery, he can be demeaned, even condemned in modern America. But Lee was much more than a general leading a “lost cause”, at least to people with a southern history, and actually many others that would object to the “cause”.

    Lee was an iconic leader, a man of great strength, endurance and conviction. It is that strength, conviction, endurance, etc. that many remember him for today, me included. No other general during the Civil War comes close to the military achievments of Lee.

    Remember Lee was leading hundreds of thousands, if not millions, that were fighting for their HOMES, their FAMILIES, their “way of life” that for most did not include the ownership of slaves. Consider just the rape and pillage of Sherman’s march to the sea and thousands of other “lesser” actions against the people of the South during a brutal war. Lee was the iconic figure trying to protect such people most of whom were never slave owners.

    King was doing the same but not in a military battle pitting armies against armies. And King of course represented the “other side” some 100 years later, long after Lee ultimately went down in defeat for his “cause”.

    Look at Lee for his “character”, the type of character demanded of any great leader and not just the “cause” he tried to defend. Given such a perspective, well would it not be great if we had such leadership, focused on the “right causes” today?



    • King Beauregard

       /  January 21, 2013

      ” … their “way of life” that for most did not include the ownership of slaves”.

      About that “way of life” … for 100 years after the end of slavery, the Southern concept of their “way of life” had everything to do with oppressing blacks. So no, it wasn’t just about formally owning slaves, it was also about holding the black population as their inferiors — as exciting and popular a hobby before the war as after.

      Also, you make the CSA sound like the vicitms just defending themselves, when it was the South that shot first at the North. They picked a fight with an opponent that was better than them in every regard, and lost badly … though not nearly as badly as they would have against a less merciful government. Still, just imagine if the South had been half as smart as a potato and avoided a picking fight altogether … the North would never have marshaled the political will to send troops to put down the uprising, the CSA would likely have been legally recognized by the USA, and the South would have been able to keep the beautiful dream of unending slavery alive.


      • King B,

        You mentioned “a less merciful government.” That post-war mercy was due, of course, to the greatness (and genius) of Abraham Lincoln.



    • Anson,

      I’m not sure I can help you understand why comparing MLK with Lee (“King was doing the same but…) is utterly illegitimate, so I won’t try to do that.

      But you wrote,

      Look at Lee for his “character”, the type of character demanded of any great leader and not just the “cause” he tried to defend. Given such a perspective, well would it not be great if we had such leadership, focused on the “right causes” today?

      Surely, in contemplating whether the nation should honor a man with a holiday or otherwise celebrate him, part of the “character” of that man is measured by his loyalty, particularly his loyalty to the nation that is considering whether to so honor him, right? By that measure, Lee was a man of bad character, since he not only resigned his commission, he took up arms against the United States of America. Normally, we don’t have much of a problem judging harshly people who do such things, but the cult of Robert E. Lee has been a very powerful force in our culture.

      And, yes, it would be “great if we had such leadership” today, “focused on the ‘right causes.'” It all starts, though, with getting the causes “right.”

      And Lee most certainly did not do that.



  2. For a second my brain processed that as “James Earl Ray” day. Me am read good.

    Although I don’t doubt for a second that some peabrained human stegosauruses aren’t celebrating that too, even if only under their breath when alone in their car.


  3. laborerman

     /  January 21, 2013

    The “way” of the south? I believe the old saying “the more things change, the more they remain the same ” should apply here! The folks with money want control! That has not changed, just more prevalent in the south and the way those with money have become entrenched and basically “brain washed” …no offense meant, but the common folks!


    • Laborerman,

      Many “common folks” all over the country, unfortunately, have surrendered their votes, if not their minds, to those “folks with money.”



  4. There are a number of alternative history novels where the south left the union and slavery was preserved, or where the South even won the Civil War and imposed slavery nationwide.


    • The key word there, Bruce, is “novels.” I sometimes think these people today have crawled up inside the heads of those at the beginning of “Gone With The Wind” who couldn’t wait to take on the Yankees and make short work of them.



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