May 27, 2013

Yes, who started Memorial Day matters

Union soldiers killed at Gettysburg. Getty Images via New York Times
At a recent Memorial Day event, I heard one of the speakers first try to claim that Memorial Day was started in the South, not the North, and that, second, it doesn't matter anyway.

Partially wrong on No. 1, definitely wrong on No. 2.

Yes, women both North and South were decorating the graves of soldiers from previous wars before Memorial Day, per Wikipedia.

But, also per Wikipedia, the non-Monday Holiday original date of May 30 was proposed by Union veteran John Logan, president of the Grand Army of the Republic, in 1968, specifically as "Decoration Day." And, that's how Memorial Day started.

The fact that it was for Civil War dead, and more specifically, for Union Civil War dead, is also important. It's doubly important in our lifetimes.

That's because, ever since the election to the presidency of Richard Nixon in 1968, based on part on Kevin Phillips' "Southern strategy," the South, which appeared to have culturally won the Civil War by the time of Plessy vs. Ferguson, only to have the clock pushed forward again by the civil rights movement, has been at least partially winning a number of battles again.

Those are mainly battles over the power and range of the federal government, and they've had a massive resurgence with the tea party movement, and calls for things like nullification. The movement has also shown us that the racism which fueled the South's attachment to its "peculiar institution," wasn't publicly, let alone privately, wiped out by the civil rights movement.

Related to that, this is why the issue of American forts still being named after Confederate Civil War generals matters. No, none were ever prosecuted for it, but by the Constitutional definition, they were all traitors. There's no other word for it.

So, eff the gun nut and related cultures that run strong in the South. This column is totally right. It's time to rename, among others, Fort Hood here in Texas, named after John Bell Hood. It's time to rename Fort Lee and Fort A.P. Hill. Period.

And, it's also time to remember the Robert E. Lee was first offered the leadership of the Ku Klux Klan. He turned it down, and it went to Nathan Bedford Forrest. There's no indication, though, that he disagreed with its general work or ideals.

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