July 27, 2017

Lee-Jackson Day

State and local offices closed today for the Lee-Jackson holiday, remembering two icons of the American Civil War – Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

Civil war holidays – and just about everything else associated with what my grandfather called “the recent unpleasantness” – usually start heated debates. Some say we should stop honoring a war that they feel was fought over whether or not the South could own slaves. Others argue that the war erupted over more than slavery – the continuing struggle of states’ rights in a society controlled by an ever-increasing federal bureaucracy.

Whatever your point of view, the Lee-Jackson Day holiday today gives state and local employees the luxury of a four-day weekend because they join the feds on Monday in closing for Martin Luther King’s birthday.

And most of our views of the Civil War, or War Between the States, or as some around here put it “The War of Northern Aggression,” depends on where you’re from. Amy, born and raised in Illinois – the “Land of Lincoln” learned an entirely different view of the war than my education in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Shortly after we moved from Illinois to Northern Virginia, we were driving one Saturday afternoon along U.S. 50 near Middleburg when she noticed that the road was named “The John S. Mosby Highway.”

“Is that the Mosby from the Confederate Army?” I assured her it was.

“They named a highway after a terrorist?”

I assured her that here in the South, we didn’t consider the leader of Mosby’s Rangers a terrorist. After all, one person’s terrorist is another one’s freedom fighter.

Back when I took a sabbatical from journalism, put on a suit and ran the political programs division of the National Association of Realtors, I ran into a problem with an employee who didn’t like the holiday schedule.

“I’m particularly upset that we aren’t closing for Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday,” he said (the association didn’t close for President’s Day either).

“I know just how you feel,” I responded. “I’m from Virginia and I don’t like us not closing for Robert E. Lee’s birthday either.”

For a brief moment anger flashed in his eyes, then he smiled.

“I guess it all depends on where you come from,” he said.

“Yes,” I replied. “It does.”

Amy, being the Yankee she is, still finds our fascination with the “recent unpleasantness” amusing.

When we first visited Manassas Battlefield National Park, she looked around, shook her head, and said: “My God, how many memorials would you have if you’d actually won the war.”

To which I put on my best face of shock and replied: “We lost?”

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