How’s your Confederate Memorial Day going?

Stream of consciousness this morning…

I got a bit of a late start and didn’t get to the Capital City Club for breakfast until after 9. I had been struck, when I parked my truck on the southbound side of the Assembly median between Lady and Gervais, that there wasn’t a single other vehicle parked on the block. Many days, you can’t get a space.

Forty minutes later exactly, I come out and my truck is still completely alone. What causes such fluctuations in the demand for parking in that area? No idea…

NPR comes on as I crank up the truck. As I move toward Gervais and prepare to turn left, author John Irving is being interviewed. This prompts thoughts about why he’s so celebrated. I read a review in the WSJ of his latest, and saw nothing that made me want to read it. At the insistence of a friend (who was sure I would love it) years and years ago, I tried to read A Prayer for Owen Meany. Distaste caused me to quit after the first chapter, much as I did with Conroy’s Prince of Tides. (I have a strong negative reaction to novels that start out heaping horrific personal misfortune on the central characters — I mean, come on; gimme a chance to get used to who they are first.)

Turns out that — possibly because his latest is about a sexual omnivore; at least they seem to be relating the question to that — he’s being asked about Obama endorsing the idea of same-sex “marriage.” Great. KulturkampfYesterday’s post was enough time spent on that for me. With an air of weariness, I change to Steve FM.

Just as I do so, into my view come two jokers dressed up in butternut imitation uniforms, standing at attention in front of the Confederate soldier monument. Aw, gee, not… yes. It’s Confederate Memorial Day.

I would say, “Get over it!” But what would be the point? South Carolina is so not over it that this is an actual state holiday. Really. In fact, this observance should have been on the front page of The State this morning, right next to the Obama gay-marriage thing, to remind us all where our state leaders’ priorities lay. But I had to be told about it by these guys.

So now I know why there was a whole block of empty parking spaces.

It’s a good thing I got some good personal news this morning (my mother, who is in the hospital, is doing better). Otherwise, the day would be starting out feeling rather hopeless.

In South Carolina, we can’t get our stuff together on anything that would actually advance our state and make the lives of its citizens better. Everything that might move us forward languishes, year after year. But we can decide to celebrate Confederate Memorial Day, yet again. Because that does everyone so much good, you know.

Here I would type “sigh,” but that wouldn’t express the weariness that I feel.

27 thoughts on “How’s your Confederate Memorial Day going?

  1. Silence

    A few years ago, when I was still working for a state agency, I needed to use the internet, and was too cheap to have it at my apartment. We were off for Confederate Memorial Day, but I went in to the office that morning to check my email or whatever it was I needed to do online.

    The three African-American employees in my division were there at work, working away like it was a regular workday. Apparently they didn’t want to take a holiday for Confederate Memorial Day, and our supervisor would just let them bank the hours. Anyhow, when they saw me, they assumed I was there to join in their working protest against the holiday. I told them that I agreed it was a ridiculous holiday, and did not tell them that I was just there to use the internet. After I finished my internet use, I slipped out of the office, quietly and without being noticed.
    I like a holiday as much as the next person, but this one’s ridiculous.

  2. Doug Ross

    The fact that John Irving is my favority author (going back to college and my first reading of The World According To Garp) pretty much explains how you and I are such polar opposites.

    Garp, Hotel New Hampshire, Cider House Rules, Prayer For Owen Meany, A Widow For One Year. I’d put those five up against any five from any modern writer.

  3. susanincola

    @Doug — I love John Irving, too — but often agree with Brad and disargree with you. What explains that?
    (I do feel like John Irving runs hot and cold, though — some of his books I love, and others I can’t even finish).

  4. `Kathryn Fenner

    Yay, Miz Dubs, Senior!

    I suppose of all the vestiges of the Confederacy–the money spent on the Hunley instead of schools in our poorest communities–communities that never recovered from the inequities of slavery and Jim Crow, the flag still flying on the State House, monuments to outrageous racists (Ben Tillman whould be melted down and sold for scrap!), giving state workers a paid holiday doesn’t get me as worked up.

  5. Doug Ross


    Tell me what you love about Irving’s books and then we can figure that out. Irving is very anti-war, pro-choice. His characters are built around strong personal relationships and not about fitting in with the greater world. That’s me.

  6. Mark Stewart

    So the state doesn’t manuever this one around to fall on a Monday or a Friday? Or is this so the Legislature can have the day off in memory of those who created this dysfunctional system?

  7. Silence

    @ Brad – glad your mom is doing better. Also, I wish I got to go to the Capital City Club for breakfast.

  8. Brad

    By the way, so that no one misses the point…

    The really hateful thing about this being a holiday is the way it came about, and why it came about.

    The idea of making this a holiday came up within the context of instituting the MLK holiday. The mentality this reveals is appalling.

    The “thinking” was that MLK Day was “something for the black people,” and that the only fair thing to do would be to have something for the poor little ol’ white folks too. So you have the combined offensive ideas that a) only black people have reason to care about or honor MLK; and b) you are somehow doing something that all of us white folk want by having a Confederate Memorial Day and finally c) that it is impossible for us to think of blacks and whites as one people, with shared interests.

    This sort of mentality is just deeply disgusting.

  9. Brad

    In other words, there’s a lot more going on here than “giving state workers a paid holiday.”

    Speaking of which… I never advocated for the MLK holiday, either. Nothing against Dr. King; I just saw no reason to create more days on which state employees were paid not to work.

    And let me add, nothing against state employees, either — I just saw so many real needs going unmet in our state budget, year after year, and didn’t see any reason why creating another holiday (or worse, another TWO holidays) should be among our priorities. There are other ways to honor major historical figures.

  10. Silence

    As I understand it, state employees in SC used to get two floating holidays. I think one was basically to take your birthday off, or some such. When MLK day became a holiday the legislature took the two floating holidays away, and made MLK day and Confederate Memorial Day. In short, nobody really gained or lost any days off at all. In reality, state employees just lost the flexibility to choose two days off.

  11. Karen McLeod

    Back when I started working with the state in ’76, Confederate memorial day was a holiday. They then changed it to giving employees a choose-your-own-day-off holiday. Election day was also a holiday every other year. When MLK became a holiday, they reinstituted Confederate memorial day, and took away both the election day and the employee-choice holiday.

  12. Michelle

    I’d planned to honor the Illustrious Glorious Dead from The Late Unpleasantness by sleeping in until the crack of noon, but the pager went off–some of us still carry these!
    After Daily Mass, I joined the other state employees enjoying the day off at Drip Coffee. Back to the other type of “grind” tomorrow.

  13. bud

    Interesting that Confederate Memorial Day falls on the worst day of the Confederate existence, the day it ended.

  14. Brad

    Actually, Bud, it’s not on the day the Confederacy ended (I’m guessing that would be April 9, when Lee surrendered).

    But some might argue it was the worst day for the Confederacy — the day Stonewall Jackson died.

    Why South Carolina celebrates it then, I have no idea. I could see Virginians doing that, but not SC…

    If you’re going to have such a holiday, then I’d recommend July 3. That’s the date of the “high water mark of the Confederacy,” when the remnants of Pickett’s men breached that stone wall near the top of the ridge before being repulsed.

    That would have been the military peak of the Confederacy — when it came closest to pushing through to take Washington from behind and win the war — and the beginning of its long fall (which would appeal to Southerners’ deep sense of tragedy).

    Much better than May 10.

    And then, the next day, we could all be Americans again as we celebrate the Fourth.

  15. bud

    May 10, 1865 was the day Jefferson Davis was captured by Union troops in Georgia. I’ve always considered that a more appropriate day for the end of the Civil war than Lee’s surrender. Fact is there were several Confederate armies still fighting after Lee’s surrender. Davis was attempting to head west to Texas to continue the struggle. Had he made it the war may have continued on. The fact that he was captured ended all possibility of the “cause” continuing. And of course there is the Stonewall thing. Not a good date for the Confederacy.

  16. Brad

    Bud, thanks for pointing that out. I was going by what Bruce Smith wrote in his AP story: “In the Carolinas, Confederate Memorial Day is May 10th, the day Gen. Stonewall Jackson died in 1863.”

    Obviously, it makes more sense when we think of it in terms of what happened on that date two years later.

    But this raises an important point. To a Southern gentleman, the end came when Lee surrendered. That was the time to furl flags. I like to think that if I (like so many of my ancestors) had been involved in that conflict on the Confederate side, I would have laid down arms and furled my flags when Marse Robert did. I would have had little patience with the diehards, even though they could defend themselves by asserting that the head of an army in the field surrendering and the head of civil government surrendering are two different matters.

    I would always have followed Lee rather than Davis, I like to think.

    The kinds of people who defend the flying of the flag today (which I consider to be a gross insult to men who honorably surrendered) are of the Jeff Davis diehard variety. That separates us.

  17. Brad

    Of course, what I REALLY like to think is that in Lee’s place, I would have placed my oath as an officer in the United States Army ahead of loyalty to Virginia — or South Carolina.

    But as much as I may try to imagine it, I can’t quite put myself into the place of a mid-19th century man, and have quite his notion of the relationship between state, and what those in the Union were coming to fully realize as a nation.

    To me, of COURSE loyalty to the United States (which to me is the ideas for which it stands) would come first. But I was born after WWII, which makes a big difference.

  18. bud

    I think we’re still evolvong on that. Given how the federal government has encroached so dramatically in recent years on our rights as people (wars based on false premises, wire tapping, killing US citizens with drones, keeping prisoners in jail without trials, federal government interfering in state issues such as marijuana, etc) it would seem the people may not be as supportive for the “loyalty to the United States” as they once might have. Seems like we need to correct these divergences from the American way at some point.

  19. Brad

    Spoken like a Southron man, I say with all due respect.

    The Confederates were all about limits on the federal gummint.

    Me — assuming I would have been the same person, which is a big assumption — I would have been with Lincoln, holding the Union together at all costs. Suspending habeas corpus and the draft riots in New York were terribly unfortunate, but the ideals of liberal democracy for which the United States stands may not have had any chance to exist in the future (our past) if they had not occurred.

  20. bud

    Brad, the only REAL justification for the United States to invade the Confederate States was to eradicate slavery. Keeping the states together by force was no a sufficient justification for the civil war.

  21. Steven Davis II

    “I got a bit of a late start and didn’t get to the Capital City Club for breakfast until after 9.”

    9:00??? What time do you have to be to work?

  22. Steven Davis II

    MLK Day, also known as Robert E. Lee Day. Both holiday’s (MLK Day and Conf. Memorial Day) are dumb, neither are worthy of a state employee having to take a day off. This coming from a state employee… but this is South Carolina and I’ve found that there are two ways to doing things, the way SC does it and the way the rest of the country does it.

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