The news that the Virginia General Assembly is considering setting aside a day to honor Abraham Lincoln has certainly triggered some emotional responses. That is not surprising, but let’s not deceive ourselves in thinking that this is a question with an answer. How we approach this question will be determined by a host of factors, but this has little to do with what matters.
Whether Lincoln deserves a day in Virginia will be determined by whether the sponsors of the bill can gain enough support in Richmond and ultimately among the general public. This is not about political correctness , but about political persuasion. In other words, whoever makes the best case within the marketplace of commemorative visions and can rally sufficient support will prevail. In the context of the public sphere how we as a community commemorate and remember our past has always proceeded along these lines. One of the comments on the previous post pointed out that the sponsor of the resolution is both a Democrat and African American. I suggested that it is irrelevant given that Democrats and African Americans have just as much a right as anyone to propose such commemorative events. Perhaps if the sponsor had chosen to honor an ex-Confederate general there would have been no need to bring up politics and race. I don’t know.
What gives me comfort is that unlike the formative period of Civil War commemorations we now live at a time when these questions can be discussed and debated by both black and white Virginians. After all, it is a shared history.