In a letter today on Page 5, Evans resident Keith Moses urges Columbia County commissioners to reject a proposal to name April as Confederate History Month. Commissioners, especially Chairman Ron Cross, are showing signs of squeamishness on the designation. Some county citizens are needlessly stirred up over the proclamation, and at Tuesday's Commission meeting may urge officials to forego the declaration this year.
As the saying goes, those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. In this case, those without knowledge of history are badly distorting it.
This may come as a surprise to many of those upset over this issue, but issuing a proclamation declaring April Confederate History Month is nothing new; commissioners have done so every year, as long for as anyone can remember, as have most communities in Georgia - including Augusta. Similarly, Georgia's governor each year routinely issues a Confederate History Month proclamation, along with hundreds of other declarations.
What is different, then, about this year's proclamation in Columbia County? It's this: commissioners have allowed the ghost of political correctness to frighten them. Rather than rubber-stamp a routine document, officials are scaring up needless controversy.
Here's the history of the holiday. According to the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, the Georgia General Assembly in 1874 - just nine years after the Civil War - established April 26 as a state holiday. It marks the day that Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's surrender to Union Gen. William T. Sherman became official. Just as VE Day marks the end of World War II in Europe, April 26 commemorates the end of a brutal war on American soil.
What many people don't realize is that Confederate Memorial Day is our state's original Memorial Day; it wasn't until the late 1960s that Southern states began to recognize what we now celebrate in May as Memorial Day - originally called Remembrance Day - and what at the time was considered a purely Northern concoction.
Proclaiming April as Confederate History Month is entirely appropriate. If commissioners fail to follow their annual tradition of issuing the proclamation, it will be a disservice to the nearly 4,000 Georgians who fought and died or were wounded in the war, including hundreds from Columbia County - which sent a quarter of its men into battle.
"It seems like the Confederacy is not in vogue, and remembering them isn't in vogue, either," laments Woody Highsmith of Evans, a Civil War buff.
Just as important, bowing to political correctness would be a gratuitous slap in the face to Highsmith and other Southerners for whom history and heritage are important. Many of them already are stung over the change in the state's flag; it's difficult to appeal for a truce in their divisive fight when public officials are unwilling to uphold even routine historical traditions.
By unwisely balking at this year's proclamation, Columbia County commissioners have created controversy where none should exist. We asked the state's "flaggers" to move on after losing in Georgia's flag referendum; likewise, commissioners should approve this commemoration so we can all move on.
A footnote: Lest anyone wrongly accuse these commissioners of "racism" for recognizing Confederate History Month, bear in mind that it was just a few weeks ago that these same commissioners unanimously voted to designate Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday for county employees. Commemorating our history, warts and all, isn't "racism"; it's the right thing to do.
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