Virginia’s Republican Governor Robert F. “Bob” McDonnell, not the sort to be outdone by a Democratic White House Passover seder, has raised the bar on honoring the Jewish festival of freedom: He’s declared the entire month of April to be “Confederate History Month.”
Of course I’m kidding. Actually, the governor’s Confederate heritage proclamation doesn’t have a word about Jewish holidays — nor, for that matter, about freedom. McDonnell paid his respects to the Jews of the Commonwealth last month, in another proclamation: “I, Robert F. McDonnell, do hereby recognize March 7-13, 2010 as CHRISTIAN HERITAGE WEEK in the COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA [emphasis in the original], and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.” Indeed, what Virginian wouldn’t snap to attention for that?
No, Confederate History Month is about remembering “the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War.”
Oh, and also promoting tourism. As the proclamation notes, “Confederate historical sites such as the White House of the Confederacy are open for people to visit in Richmond today.” And remembering those sacrifices “takes on particular importance as the Commonwealth prepares to welcome the nation and the world to visit Virginia for the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the Civil War.”
Yes, it’s springtime. As the Commonwealth’s most famous slogan goes, Virginia is for lovers. Lovers of what? That was always ambiguous until Governor McDonnell cleared it up. (Remind me again: what was it that those honored dead were sacrificing for?)
To be fair, Virginia is for Lovers of the Confederacy Month wasn’t an entirely original idea. It was introduced in 1997 by an earlier Republican governor, George Allen, who comes to the Season of Liberation honestly, sort of: He’s a full-fledged, matrilineal Jew, though he didn’t know it at the time, or so he says. The custom was renewed by Allen’s Republican successor, James Gilmore III, who goosed up his Confederate History proclamation with some words about slavery being bad. Then came eight years of Democratic governors, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, who dropped the tradition.
McDonnell, the latest GOP up-and-comer — he’s the guy, alert readers recall, who was picked to rebut President Obama’s first State of the Union address (watch the video here) — has revived the custom, though he dropped Gilmore’s slavery-bashing language. Remember, the GOP is into bondage in a big way these days.
Governor McDonnell has not entirely neglected the importance of freedom in this solemn season. On March 24, sandwiched in between Christian Heritage Week and Confederate History Month, he ceremoniously signed a package of bills known as the Virgina Healthcare Freedom Act. Passed in the legislature with bipartisan support, the legislation makes it illegal to require Virginians to buy health insurance.
“This is not at all about health care,” one of the bill’s sponsors, state Senator Frederick Quayle, is quoted as saying. “It is about the basic right of citizens proscribed in the Constitution.”
Talking about the Constitution, are we? Here’s a clause that Virginians might want to examine during April, if they can squeeze it in alongside their Confederate History studies:
**Article II Section 3 Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).