The state of Georgia has always been big on symbols of the Confederacy. This is the state, after all, that has a memorial to Confederate “heroes” Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson chiseled into the side of a mountain. Until 2001, the state flag featured, as many Southern state flags have, the battle flag of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, which is commonly known as “the Confederate flag.” Now, however, the state has decided to drop two remembrances of the Confederacy from their state calendar. But not really.
For years, Confederate Memorial Day, April 26, and Robert E. Lee’s birthday, January 19, have been holidays in Georgia, with state offices being closed. Lee’s birthday, honored in Georgia even though the famous general was a Virginian, has been celebrated on the day after Thanksgiving, rather than in January, so that state employees could have a four-day weekend.
But when Republican Governor Nathan Deal released the state holiday calendar for 2016, there were two noticeable changes. Both Lee’s birthday and Confederate Memorial Day have been replaced with generic “state holidays.”
Here is the 2016 Georgia holiday calendar, compared to the one from 2015.
Back in August, when the change was announced, Deal’s spokesman Brian Robinson admitted that the move was cosmetic. He told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the state is still celebrating those holidays, just not by name. Referring to Confederate Memorial Day, Robinson said:
There will be a state holiday on that day. Those so inclined can observe Confederate Memorial Day and remember those who died in that conflict.
Looking at the 2016 holiday calendar, the “nudge nudge, wink wink” nature of the change is plain. The “state holiday” that is replacing Robert E. Lee’s birthday is still noted on the calendar as occurring on January 19, and being observed on the day after Thanksgiving.
In an interview after the change was announced, Deal had this to say:
It’s hopefully a good faith effort on the part of state government to lower the degree of debate and discussion, and to show that we are a state that has come a very long way. We are tolerant of a lot of things. But we will also protect our heritage. But this was not one of those areas area where I thought it was necessary to keep those labels associated with the holiday.
Deal has been taking heat from both sides in the debate over Confederate history and symbols. When the change in the holidays was announced, he was attacked by some ne0-Confederates as a “coward.” State Senator Vincent Fort, an Atlanta area Democrat, called Deal’s move an “inartful dodge,” and is moving forward with his plan to get Confederate Memorial Day removed from the list of state holidays, no matter what it is called.
Germany banned Nazi symbols years ago. No matter how defenders of the Confederacy want to spin it, Confederate holidays, flags and such are symbols of a violent revolt against the United States of America. It is long past time to do away with them, everywhere.
Featured image via Wikipedia