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Living in a state with a Lee-Jackson state holiday

Jan 17, 2014 Living in a state with a Lee-Jackson state holiday

Today in Virginia is [Robert E.] Lee and [Stonewall] Jackson Day. Courts are closed (of course, my office is open, because I am not going to go along with such a holiday), giving courthouse personnel a four-day weekend when we add this Monday’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. Some Virginia school systems might be closed, but my son’s Fairfax County school system, wisely, does not join in celebrating Lee and Jackson with a school closure.

1986 was the first time I lived in Virginia. I chose an apartment in Arlington, Virginia, just one subway stop away from my law school (George Washington University, named after a slaveholder). Not long afterwards, I realized that I was living less than a mile from [Robert E.] Lee Highway/Route 29, which is about as major a roadway in Virginia as Route 1 is on the Eastern seaboard. Then again, Washington, D.C., also is south of the Mason-Dixon line, and had widespread racial segregation based on custom at least right into the 1950’s.

I moved to Washington, D.C., the next year. Last summer, I moved my office and home to Fairfax County, Virginia, which is two counties from Washington.

Time marches on. The Union won the Civil War, the Supreme Court issued opinions dismantling racial segregation and the Court banned prohibitions against interracial marriage. Along the way, and to this day, many in the South kept remnants of their Confederate past. Not all who want to preserve symbols of the Confederate past are motivated by racism, but celebrating the Confederacy impedes the struggle to end racism.

This long weekend I will do my best to focus on Dr. King, and to transcend my discomfort with the close proximity of the Lee-Jackson Day celebration. Times change further. In the 1980’s, Virginia elected an African-American governor, Douglas Wilder. Twice, a majority of voting Virginians voted for Barack Obama, our nation’s first African-American president.

Northern Virginia, for one, is in many ways a greater Washington, D.C., with transplants from all around the country and throughout the world.

As I reflect further on the Civil War, some additional ideas come to mind:

– Under what circumstances may a state or states secede from the rest of the United States? The Civil War — at a very bloody and financially costly price — ended slavery in the South, where slavery would have continued had secession happened. However, if the South had no slavery, would it have been justified not to have allowed secession if the South still wanted secession.

– In addition to heavy bloodshed and financial costs, the negative costs of the Civil War also included further progression towards an overly powerful and overly militarized central United States government that thereafter went to war all too often.

– Post-Civil War, the United States continued its march to control all land from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, leaving Native Americans as victims along the way, including with the bloody fighting against Native Americans that followed the Civil War.

– The U.S. went beyond the now-continental United States to also obtain dominion over Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, the Virginia Islands, Guam, Micronesia and more lands. If a majority of any of those territories ‘ inhabitants vote for secession, should that be enough for the U.S. government to okay secession?

To end on a high note, happy upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr., Day!

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