April 9 is the 150th anniversary of the Union’s victory in the Civil War, Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House. Brian Beutler at the New Republic is suggesting we make it a national holiday:
“This week provides an occasion for the U.S. government to get real about history, as April 9 is the 150th anniversary of the Union’s victory in the Civil War. The generous terms of Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House foreshadowed a multitude of real and symbolic compromises that the winners of the war would make with secessionists, slavery supporters, and each other to piece the country back together. It’s as appropriate an occasion as the Selma anniversary to reflect on the country’s struggle to improve itself. And to mark the occasion, the federal government should make two modest changes: It should make April 9 a federal holiday; and it should commit to disavowing or renaming monuments to the Confederacy, and its leaders, that receive direct federal support.”
“…Today, the South is home to innumerable counties, schools, and other monuments named in honor of Confederate men, or established to celebrate the Confederacy itself. The federal government can’t change that on its own, but it can refuse to participate in the celebration. It could rename these 10 army installations after Union fighters. It could remove monuments to the Confederacy (as opposed to museums and landmarks) from the National Register of Historic Places, and disclaim any obligation to finance their maintenance. It could stop producing headstones for Confederate graves—as Steven I. Weiss documented in The Atlantic, the feds process nearly 2,000 of these a year, at a cost of half a million dollars, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for maintaining more Confederate graves and monuments than Union ones. It could remove the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery and place it in the custody of the Smithsonian—or at least end the spectacle of the president of the United States bestowing it with a wreath every Memorial Day. We aren’t being polite to anyone worthy of politeness, or advancing any noble end, by continuing to honor traitors in this way.”
I think this is a great idea, not because it will give The Confederacy Wingnuttia the squirts (it will), but because it would remind us that we have come through really bad times before. There is always this undercurrent about secession, and 10th amendment and other nonsense coming out of the conservatives, and we need to have some honest history. David Barton weeps.
Read the piece, it’s terrific. Then read Ed Kilgore’s post at the Washington Monthly, which gives some southern perspective for why it would be a good idea.