Conventional wisdom from sources ancient to modern asserts that history is written by the winners. I guess when a second round of editing is deemed necessary, we must call in the losers.
Or at least that's the impression you'd get if you were following the news in American historic revisionism. It seems it's only a matter of time before children's history books change all references of the Civil War to the "Great War of Yankee Aggression."
Yes, it turns out that rewriting history isn't just for religious fanatics in Texas anymore. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell issued a statement this week recognizing April as Confederate History Month, omitting any mention of slavery.
After a huge uproar he promised to revise the statement, but his apology was so rote as to be nearly unremarkable. Except that one little part where McDonnell said slavery "has left a stain on the soul of this state and nation," which made him seem more upset about the bad rep slavery had imparted on his state than anything else.
After all, the governor was just trying to bring a few tourists into town, reminding reporters of "the fact that this is going to be a very important event next year that will promote tourism and economic development in Virginia."
I wonder; does this mean the state's office of tourism will be changing their slogan to "Virginia is for haters"?
Of course, McDonnell is in good company. In January of this year, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue signed into law a legislative directive permanently making April Confederate History Month in that state. The proclamation does not explicitly or implicitly mention African Americans or slavery.
As Think Progress notes, Georgia and Virginia join Mississippi in declaring the month to be for Confederate history (minus all of those embarrassing parts). And all three states have one driving force in common: the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), which claims the states' proclamations as victories.
The group is behind a multi-state effort to make April Confederate History Month, including the effort in Virginia, and the chair of the SCV's Confederate History and Heritage Month Committee said he supports the omission of slavery from the recognition.
The SCV was once more of the Civil War reenactment, history-buff type of group. But in the past few years they've been infiltrated and purged of moderates by the likes of Kirk Lyons, founder of the Southern Legal Resource Center (SLRC).
Perhaps you remember Lyons as the guy urging Southerners to participate in a Census write-in campaign this year to mark their race as "Confederate Southern American." This effort is but one in a long-ranging legal campaign to outlaw what Lyons and others see as discrimination against those who use the Confederate flag to identify themselves.
Lyons has worked and spoken for with several different White supremacist, American militia and neo-Nazi groups in the past, and his attempts to purge the SCV were documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks hate groups around the country:
...Lyons told the audience of racist activists that the SCV needed to get rid of its "grannies" and "bed-wetters" and get serious about the political struggle. "The civil rights movement I am trying to form seeks a revolution," Lyons told his colleagues. "We seek nothing more than a return to a godly, stable, tradition-based society with no "Northernisms' attached, a hierarchical society, a majority European-derived country."
Association with such groups could hurt a politician's image. People For the American Way President Michael Keegan pulled no punches when he accused McDonnell of "appeasing his supporters in the radical Right" in a statement this week:
Issuing a declaration honoring the confederacy is disturbing enough; failing to acknowledge slavery while doing it is inexcusable... We cannot allow our elected officials to practice this kind of dangerous revisionism.
Not all remembrances of the Civil War and Confederate history need be revisionist. Alabama's proclamation explicitly condemns slavery, as did former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore's revision of his predecessor's incendiary remarks on the marking of the month.