It’s difficult to tell whether much of anything is going to happen here in Virginia this weekend in acknowledgment of Lee-Jackson Day. Yes, there is the parade tomorrow in Lexington, but that’s not surprising given the fact that the city serves as their final resting place. It would be very strange indeed if the city didn’t mark the day with a public celebration, especially one organized by the SCV. Given the apparent lack of interest, perhaps we need a new holiday. So, which Virginians do you believe deserve his or her own day as a state holiday? Don’t be shy.
I’ve been giving this some thought, not so much in the context of a state holiday, but in reference to our collective memory here in the good state of Virginia. We have such a rich history here and there are plenty of important and obscure individuals who deserve to be remembered in one way or another. It seems to me that the one glaring omission is the lack of any kind of monument to Nat Turner. That’s right, I said Nat Turner. I’m not suggesting that what is needed is something overtly celebratory, but some kind of acknowledgment of his role in Virginia history and the broader civil rights movement. The fact that we still do not have a public site dedicated to Turner (even in Southampton County) tells us quite a bit about how we choose to remember our past. More specifically, it tells us what we as a community have difficulty coming to terms with. We will see this on Monday as the nation remembers Martin Luther King, Jr. Schools will perform the mandatory rituals and local news teams will cobble together the standard narrative that celebrates King’s commitment to non-violence and his role in singlehandedly bringing an end to racial injustice. Perhaps we will see a few hoses from Birmingham. The point is that most Americans would much rather celebrate the expansion of freedom in this country as emerging through non-violent means rather than through violence.
Turner raises all of these issues and more. Can you imagine a Nat Turner day here in Virginia?
Update: Thanks to everyone who stopped by today. Friday is usually slow around here, but yesterday’s- and especially today’s posts clearly made an impact. My stats counter went through the roof. There is something quite powerful about blogging. On this Lee-Jackson Day I managed to steer at least a small portion of the public discussion in the direction of another Virginian who I believe deserves to be acknowledged in a more public way. [Please keep in mind the nature of a blog post. Most of my posts reflect topics that I think about over time and rarely reflect conclusions that are set in stone. Please feel free to challenge me and offer a different perspective. I have nothing to lose, but ideas that I had not considered.] A number of Yahoo groups picked up the post as well as the Civil War Talk Forum. Even my friend in Fredericksburg, who never fails to point out how unimportant I am, chose to link to one of my comments. It’s a sign of just how unimportant I am that he would devote his blog to me on this Lee-Jackson Day. I am truly blessed with so many devoted readers.