lee_kingOur contiguous cousins to the north and the east — Arkansas and Mississippi — along with Alabama are taking time to reflect on more than the contributions to American civil society by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In what may be characterized as civic schizophrenia, our fellow Deep Southerners have designated the third Monday in January as Lee/King Day, piggybacking a state holiday honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee on the federal holiday honoring King.

Lee was born Jan. 19, 1807 and is best known as the noble loser of the Civil War. King, on the other hand, was born on Jan. 15, 1929 and is honored for his role in shepherding awareness of civil rights for African-Americans into white America’s living rooms and lunch counters. The federal holiday honoring King was established in 1986. That three Southern states would couple holidays honoring figures whose public goals were in such great opposition is unfortunate but frankly not surprising. We Southerners do some weird stuff.

Southern apologetics refers to the Civil War variously as the War Between the States and even the War of Northern Aggression. Its principal tenet is that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery; it was about states’ rights. Mm-hmm. To the extent that a war was fought over Southern states’ right to expand slavery to new territories, then yeah, it was about states’ rights, leaving one to wonder: What would have happened had the Confederate States of America successfully seceded from the union?

Happy MLK Day.

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