A week or two ago I wrote about the not-so-great side of my home state of Texas. Now, it is apparently time for Virginia, where I currently reside when not in Philly, to disappoint. And it’s really, really disappointing. At first, I was so-so on Bob McDonnell. On the one hand, thirty years ago he said some nasty things about gay people and women. On the other, he plans to privatize liquor sales! But since taking office, he’s actually fulfilled people’s fears on the gay rights score by taking sexual orientation off the list of discrimination-protected characteristics for state employees. And now…seriously…April is Confederate History Month in Virginia. Seriously. I’m going to quote Yglesias in full on this, because there’s little else to say:
It’s important to note that this isn’t simply someone going along with a longstanding abhorrent bit of symbolism that’s traditional in his state. Mark Warner, rightly, broke this tradition and refused to grant wink-nod symbolic affirmation of the idea of unleashing massive violence in defense of the principle that white people should own black people as property. Tim Kaine upheld the new status quo. And now McDonnell’s ondoing it, which is offensive on its own terms and will also raise the political cost to any future governor who wants to do the right thing.
In other news, since the RNC is determined to stick with Michael Steele come what may, I’m sure black people will start loving Republicans soon.
Minus the sniping at the end, I’m totally on board with Yglesias. While the government should not outlaw hateful speech, even speech “in defense of the principle that white people should own black people as property,” neither should the government let tacit affirmation of that principle stain its conscience. Allowing someone to say those things does not constitute affirmation; allowing the people who say it a place in your public symbology is. Period.
Oh, and a brief addendum while we’re talking about liberty and the places I live. Despite its excitability with respect to flash mobs, the Philadelphia legal establishment apparently has some sense and is going to step down prosecution of small-time marijuana offenses.
Update: Here’s the WaPo article on the subject. That there is a political base that would be excited by this news is…offputting.