An Open Letter to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe
From Sherwan W. Dillar
I was born in Los Angeles, California and raised in Ohio. I have taught Political Science at the collegiate level in Cincinnati, been published in The Wall Street Journal and am in my 12th year of research for a forthcoming book on Columbine. For the past seven years I have made Rockbridge County, Virginia, my home. The one and only reason I live in Lexington, Virginia is, because it is the final resting place of Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. Jackson. Their lives, character, faith, integrity, honor and testimony shone so brightly a century and a half after their decease, that there is no other place on the Earth I want to be, but where they lived and served.
There is something deeply and morally wrong with anyone, who objects to these two great Virginians—great Americans being honored by the native State, for which they gave their lives, limbs and blood in selfless patriotic service. President Dwight D. Eisenhower kept Lee’s portrait in his executive office, while president. Churchill extolled him as the greatest American. Ulysses S. Grant threatened to resign from the U.S. Army, if Lee were tried for treason. The statue that marks the grave of “Stonewall” Jackson was paid for not only by the veterans, who served under him, but by financial contributions from former slaves, whom he had taught to read in violation of Virginia law.
When a Lexington local assailed Jackson for breaking the law to “teach those people”, Jackson uncharacteristically lost his temper and shouted, “If you were a Christian you would not say so!”After the war, it was Lee who broke social convention at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, by kneeling beside a former slave, who had mortified the White congregation by kneeling at the altar. Asked afterward by a bigot why a man like himself would kneel beside a former slave, Lee simply chastised him, “The ground is always level at the foot of the cross.”
The anniversary of the deaths of Lee and of Jackson were long commemorated in this Commonwealth by veterans of the North, who were often the honored keynote speakers invited to praise the virtues of their once-foes. Every monument to a Confederate Virginian is a war memorial to an American veteran. It has been the mark of manhood and civility and longstanding American tradition to leave politics out of the way we honor our veterans. They fought the battles; we did not. They shed the blood; we did not. They reconciled with their enemies; we did not. End of subject. It is not for children born a hundred and fifty years later to re-adjudicate the past and expose to double jeopardy men their own contemporaries exonerated.
It is the height of arrogance to suppose that you know more about these men and their times than their even contemporaries. The command of God remains, “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.” It is to God you will assuredly answer for its violation. If you find it impossible to respect your elders, attempt at least to revere your betters. The destruction of Virginia’s monuments to her war dead is sacrilege and those, who urge and execute it, are nothing more than cemetery vandals. There is no honor in this course of wanton destruction and, morally, you equate yourself with ISIS, which shares your contempt for actual culture, something you both so manifestly lack. It is more than history, more than art.
No matter. No one will remember you in any 150 years. Nothing you do can make anything like the mark these great Virginians made on history’s ledger. Just being you another day is your own punishment and yet you still face God for what you propose to do as well. Something is deeply, horribly wrong with your soul, Sir. And you know it. So does all Virginia. I have strived to be civil, but you do not make it easy. Smearing reputations, slandering saints and tearing down what better men raised has zero to do with love, unity, tolerance, acceptance, diversity and coexistence. It’s just the usual political spoils game, playing one race/class/group against another to score a win at any cost. The mean, petty loathing of Virginia’s first string heroes outs you as a raging hypocrite just as you were trying to pass for intelligent. What a piece of work. Just leave the statues, graves, monuments and memorials right where the grown-ups put them, Terry. Just fool around doing nothing, you know, like back at Georgetown. Easy.
That’s all I ask. And about the most anybody expects of you. Aren’t you tired yet of just being the same old failure and lurching from bungled debacle to bungled debacle? Why not shock the world: open a book, educate yourself and do something less horrible than usual. Resign, even, and leave Virginians to govern Virginia. What a concept.
With all due respect,
Sherwin W. Dillar