State and local offices closed today for the Lee-Jackson holiday, remembering two icons of the American Civil War â€“ Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
Civil war holidays â€“ and just about everything else associated with what my grandfather called â€œthe recent unpleasantnessâ€ â€“ 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 â€“ the continuing struggle of statesâ€™ 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 Kingâ€™s birthday.
And most of our views of the Civil War, or War Between the States, or as some around here put it â€œThe War of Northern Aggression,â€ depends on where youâ€™re from. Amy, born and raised in Illinois â€“ the â€œLand of Lincolnâ€ 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 â€œThe John S. Mosby Highway.â€
â€œIs that the Mosby from the Confederate Army?â€ I assured her it was.
â€œThey named a highway after a terrorist?â€
I assured her that here in the South, we didnâ€™t consider the leader of Mosbyâ€™s Rangers a terrorist. After all, one personâ€™s terrorist is another oneâ€™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 didnâ€™t like the holiday schedule.
â€œIâ€™m particularly upset that we arenâ€™t closing for Dr. Martin Luther Kingâ€™s birthday,â€ he said (the association didnâ€™t close for Presidentâ€™s Day either).
â€œI know just how you feel,â€ I responded. â€œIâ€™m from Virginia and I donâ€™t like us not closing for Robert E. Leeâ€™s birthday either.â€
For a brief moment anger flashed in his eyes, then he smiled.
â€œI guess it all depends on where you come from,â€ he said.
â€œYes,â€ I replied. â€œIt does.â€
Amy, being the Yankee she is, still finds our fascination with the â€œrecent unpleasantnessâ€ amusing.
When we first visited Manassas Battlefield National Park, she looked around, shook her head, and said: â€œMy God, how many memorials would you have if youâ€™d actually won the war.â€
To which I put on my best face of shock and replied: â€œWe lost?â€