A Street Sign by Any Other Name Is Still Just a Street Sign

The Arlington County board is expected to ask the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) to rename the section of the Jefferson Davis Highway, Rt. 1, that runs through the county.

What took it so long?

I defend the preservation of Civil War statues, especially those along Richmond’s Monument Ave. The statues are magnificent works of public art that are integrated into the urban design of the community. No one erects statues of this quality any more — just compare the craftsmanship of the Lee, Jackson and Stuart effigies compared to the modest and forgettable memorials that pop up today. Remove the statues, and you create gaping holes in the streetscape. But a street name is just a street name.

Arlington loses nothing by changing the lettering on street signs. Moreover, Jefferson Davis is neither a son of Virginia, nor did he embody the martial virtues that many Virginians celebrate with the Civil War generals. Davis, unlike the military heroes, symbolizes nothing but the Lost Cause of the Confederacy. Not surprisingly, according to Inside Nova, there is no organized constituency for preserving the name.

The CTB should grant Arlington its request and then go one step further: Preemptively grant permission to any other locality along Rt. 1 that wishes to change the name.

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28 responses to “A Street Sign by Any Other Name Is Still Just a Street Sign

  1. Do not care. A hassle for people who live or work along it to change their official addresses, but of no importance to me. It has been US 1 in my head for decades. Nor do I care if any local government takes action to remove or change a statue on public land it controls. I continue to be amazed how nobody even notices or discusses the total Confederate shrine inside the Old House Chamber at the state Capitol. When everything else is gone, I betcha, every other trace of the Lost Cause relegated to a museum, battlefield park or cemetery, Lee will still be there in the Capitol surrounded by that pantheon of rebel generals, and so will that other shrine, the Commonwealth Club with all its Confederate artwork. Every time I walk in there (seldom, now, almost never) I expect to bump into Douglas Southall Freeman or JJ Kilpatrick.

  2. This is one of the few sensible comments on the statute/street name issue I have seen.

  3. Next up … eliminate the designation of Harry F Byrd Highway on Rt 7 in Fairfax County. The road already has two names … Rt 7 and Leesburg Pike. No need to add to the confusion by celebrating the architect of massive resistance.

  4. Make your motion. But in that case you are dealing with a former VA governor, long time U.S. Senator, father of a Senator, newspaper publisher, member of a true FFV, and the highway in question transverses his home region. That motion I might oppose, just like I’m fine with Lee Highway out in the western part of the state since the Valley Pike was a major Civil War landmark, Lee is also FFV and settled in Lexington. But a highway name is just a highway name. I can condemn massive resistance and the racism behind it, but would be loathe to let anybody forget the good and bad of Harry senior.

    • Massive resistance was pretty damn bad. So was the Byrd Machine. And Fairfax County was not his home region. Winchester is a long way from Tysons. No tributes to overt racists in Fairfax County. You guys in Richmond already have a statue of the man (to go with the Confederate generals – none of whom were from Richmond). Since you don’t mind statues of racists from elsewhere I hear Alabama is willing to sell a George Wallace status cheap. Interested?

    • I’m with Steve on this one. Harry Byrd was more than all those things; he was the champion of all things apple and of the Winchester and Berryville region, which Route 7 connects directly with Washington. Likewise Lee with each of Arlington, Alexandria and Lexington. This is qualitatively different from the Jeff Davis Highway situation.

      That said, I do question why these old highways have to have “honorary” dedications to individuals at all. Most of them originally were named in segments for the destination(s) of that segment — e.g., “Richmond Henrico Turnpike” — or for some widely-known identifying characteristic — e.g., “Telegraph Road.” Those old popular, historical names are all that EMS naming convention requires; why change them to honor people that only a distant politician can even identify? That’s a problem that has nothing to do with the Lost Cause but everything to do with modern bureaucracy.

  5. Dear Jim,

    It seems to me that the argument, “a highway name is just a highway name,” only applies to Conservatives, not the Left. Appeasing the Left never stops them. Instead, their lies and distortions are conceded by weak and pragmatic Conservatives who plead for historic preservation and hope to reach accommodations. The Left is unafraid of such arguments, and will win if and when ordinary people no longer remember the truth of their own history. The Left has a history, too, and they are determined to substitute theirs for ours. What I find so amazing is just how deep and unquenchable the hatred for the Confederacy is today, in contradistinction to most of the Northern and Black people who actually lived through those times. What do today’s people “know” that the actual participants did not? This is the result of ideological brainwashing and it will likley be murderous before all is said and done. No “live and let live.”

    Sincerely,

    Andrew

  6. There were a lot of Confederate generals, DJ, probably too many since Davis kept screwing with them…..must have been one of them born here in the Holy City. Thanks, plenty of checkered but interesting Virginians already, they can keep their statues of Gov. Wallace. And I bet I can find plenty of tributes, plaques and school names in Fairfax of people who were horrendous racists by the standards of today. I just don’t care so do the research yourself. Ad hominem is your game, not mine.

    Ha! Found one! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Williams_Carter_Wickham

  7. I see no particular argument to keep the Jeff Davis name, except for the poor schlubs who are renting offices there and will have to change their web sites and stationery through no fault of their own. It’s hard to take seriously the County’s preening virtue in the matter, though, while they retain the name of the vile Woodrow Wilson on their main east west artery.

    • Dave, I agree with your comment completely. Thank you for your knowledge of history.

    • Woodrow Wilson’s policies may have been vile but keep in mind that he was a Democrat and a “progressive one” to boot. As Governor Doktor Mengele is proving, racism among Democrats is acceptable. Acceptable is used in the sense of “able to be tolerated or allowed.”

  8. Yep. DJ needs to eradicate that former President too, if he’s going to uphold his standards…..probably one of the worst racists.

  9. “I defend the preservation of Civil War statues, especially those along Richmond’s Monument Ave. The statues are magnificent works of public art that are integrated into the urban design of the community.”

    My jaw dropped open when I read this one. What’s next? Tastefully done statues of Joseph Goebbels and Eric Rommel at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin?

  10. Sorry, Should be “Erwin” Rommel, of course.

  11. Dear Peter,

    Your disparaging of Erwin Rommel is another example where people who came after the event in question, i.e. WW II, have a much harsher view of a man than the people who actually fought against him. How do you account for that? The British greatly respected his abilities and respected him as a man of honor. Now, however, he is lumped in by you with a scrum like Goebbels. I would posit that this an example of ideological hatred that makes no distinctions, but is totally ruthless in abhorring anyone who has dared crossed them. We have to be able to make distinctions such as these and remain civilized. Oh, and by the way, Rommel did know about the plot to get rid of Hitler, and he said nothing. The German army officers in question wanted to make Rommel Germany’s head, after a successful assassination of Hitler. Does that get him any traction?

    Sincerely,

    Andrew

    • You are quite right, as usual, Andrew. Rommel was a great general, and a great and good man. So was Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. In my view, and I have studied Woodrow Wilson at great length, was not s great, nor a good one. As president, I believe he did great harm and little good, by reason of his deep seated character flaws.

      When I majored in political science at UVA, the chairman of the Department worshiped at Woodrow Wilson’s altar daily in classroom services. Why? I kept asking myself. And I still do. What are intellectuals so often so totally wrong, so blind to the facts and nuances of history, and people caught up in history? To try to answer that question, let repeat here yet again the wisdom of Dorris Lessing, a brilliant and formidable women that “A 2010 BBC radio documentary listed (along with) several other prominent British writers as Vladimir Lenin’s “useful idiots.”

      “Doris Lessing points this up when telling us about the psychology department of a small town American University that invited a few hundred town’s people to the campus to participate in an “experiment.”

      When the visitors arrived on time and no university officials were there to meet them, the group waited. Soon, still waiting, people in the group begin to argue among themselves about what was happening, the fact they had been invited to come, but no university people had showed up, and nothing was happening as they waited.

      Still waiting some more, and with ever more arguing, the group broke into two camps. Debates ensued and leaders of each camp emerged. Disputes spread to past grievances with the university and among the two groups. Quarrels erupted. A few said the meeting was becoming useful now if only those in the two groups “have it out once and for all.” Scuffles began, first among the younger men.

      At this point the University psychologists arrived to put a halt to the proceeding and announce that their experiment was finished, having accomplished it’s goal of showing the tendency of the human mind to see things in pairs – either/;or – black/white – we/you – good/bad – the forces of good/the forces of evil. And it showed how humans tend toward conflict that is magnified when they act in groups, so much so that they often splinter into more groups, if only to oppose one another.

      Thus apparently, for any group to succeed, and for leaders to emerge and achieve control or dominance of the group (so as to direct its actions), the group needs at least one enemy. Thus groups often fight about non-existent or artificially made up or inflamed differences, just to keep the group going. This is common as mud. It’s how football games and wars happen and are won, along with much else in human society.

      To quote Doris Lessing again: “The business of seeing ourselves in the right, others in the wrong; our cause as right, theirs as wrong; our ideas as correct, theirs as nonsense, if not downright evil … Well, in our sober moments, our human moments, the times when we think, reflect, and allow our rational minds to dominate us, we all of us suspect that this “I am right, your are wrong” is, quite simply, nonsense.” See Doris Lessing, Prisons We Choose to Live Inside, published 2013.

      Or now lets try Reinhold Niebuhr who also brilliantly elaborates on such group behavior. He suggests that this strident group behavior where powerful psychological forces render people irrational, putting them in highly agitated emotional states that blind them to reality, can never be fully neutralized.

      He suggests that individuals in groups could only enlightened by character driven leaders who mitigate their blindness. A sterling example of this is Lincoln, his appeal to his constituents “better angels.” And how he most always sought their better good, not his own selfless interests.

      Now back to Doris Lessing, and Again I will quote from her book Prisons We Choose to Live Inside:

      “Anyone who reads history at all knows that the passionate and powerful convictions of one century usually seem absurd, extraordinary, to the next. There is no epoch in history that seems to us as it must have to the people who lived through it. What we live through, in any age, is the effect on us of mass emotions and of social conditions from which from which it is impossible to detach ourselves. Often the mass emotions are those that seem the noblest, best and most beautiful. And yet, inside a year, five years, a decade, five decades, people will be asking, “How could they have believed that?” because events will have taken place that will have banished the said mass emotions to the dustbin of history.

      People of my age have lived through several such violent reversals. I will mention just one. During the Second World War, from the moment the Soviet Union was invaded by Hitler and became an ally of the democracies, that country was affectionately regarded in popular opinion. Stalin was Uncle Joe, the ordinary chaps friend, Russia was the land of the brave, liberty loving heroes, and Communism was in interesting manifestation of popular will that we should copy. All this went on for four years and then suddenly, almost overnight, it went into the reverse. All these attitudes became wrong-headed, treasonable, a threat to everybody. People who had been chatting on about Uncle Joe, suddenly, just as if all that had never happened, were using slogans of the cold war. One extreme, sentimental and silly bred by wartime necessities, was replaced by another extreme, unreasoning and silly.

      To have lived though such a reversal once is enough to make you critical for ever afterwards of current popular attitudes.” From Doris Lessing, Prisons We Choose to Live Inside.

      This is why keeping our colleges and universities free to protect and enhance our inheritance and properly educate our children to be free and independent people able to think and act for themselves is so critically important if they are to avoid all the mistakes they otherwise will make or get caught up in to their great misfortune.

      But still, I would never suggest we tear down monuments to Woodrow Wilson, or ripe his name off buildings or organizations. That would be grossly unfair to others who adore or believe in him and what he had to say. Most importantly it would deprive us from learning about him in history, and the valuable lessons we can learn from his actions, just as Dorris Lessing likely did.

  12. Andrew,
    You are helping me make my point. By many accounts, Both Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jackson were honorable men. While both were military experts like Rommel, they chose to serve a regime that demanded White Supremacy and that an entire race be regarded as subhuman.
    Peter

    • I’ll start taking Peter seriously when he demands that all the statues of Woodrow Wilson be taken down. And let’s not forget FDR who oversaw the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during WWII, a racist action if there ever was one. His statues need to come down, too. Indeed, the U.S. should set up a commission to investigate the backgrounds of every public figure to have a statue erected in their honor to see if they should come down. If anyone displayed in his or her lifetime insufficient adherence to the sensitivities of 21-century progressives, all monuments and memorials should come down.

      • Add Eisenhower’s expulsion of the Mexicans to your list. But the point is not that even widely acclaimed men made mistakes, even in hindsight, but that we choose to recognize men or women who, on balance, were famous at one time. So who is famous enough never to be re-evaluated? Is merely being elected President of the U.S. a sufficient, permanent criterion for fame? Is that negated by the in-famy of owning slaves, or tolerating Jim Crow, back in the day? Is working in the Trump Administration someday a disqualifier? Should the government apply hindsight judgment to history in determining whom to honor?

    • Actually, Peter, I am demonstrating that the Left “takes no prisoners” in anything. It has no concept of individual evaluation, but has a “kill ’em all and let Historic Necessity sort ’em out!” attitude. Everything devolves to collectives. Good collectives and bad collectives. The Left is fundamentally Manichean, all black and white, with no shades of gray. There is no character or individuation, only total destruction for all on “the wrong team.” Such a standard prevails in “peacetime” (ha! with politics being merely civil war by other means) and war. If you want to know where this all ends, read Solzhenitsyn.

      Sincerely,

      Andrew

    • Dear Peter,

      I don’t accept your characterization of the Confederate regime as regarding Blacks as subhuman. As it is, the Left, regards all people as just soulless, evolved apes, and unborn children as not even that. White Southerners overwhelmingly regarded Blacks as having immortal souls made in the image of God while the Left has made the libido the beginning and end of “human dignity.”

      Sincerely,

      Andrew

  13. so you go with the Trump tweet that there are “fine people” on both sides?

    • Don’t get me started on how the media mercilessly and relentlessly ripped that quote out of context to make Trump look like a Neo-Nazi sympathizer. As I’ve said many times, there are many valid reasons to dislike Trump without making stuff up. So, let’s stop making stuff up.

  14. And Jim, here’s an idea for the new logo on the Rebellion’s home page. It has some “bite” in it:

    ?resize=1200%2C666

      • Our colonial ancestors had great respect for such critters. Don’t step on me!

        And today we worship and emulate snowflakes, victims, and angry children.

        Thank you, for the insight, Peter.

        PS – And yes there are fine people on both sidces of most every issue. Including what happened in Charlottesville in the spring and summer of 2017. On that one, Trump was right on target. He took the high road. Not the one taken by the mob wanting to destroy the culture of other people, the culture and history of an entire nation.

  15. Damn right it is a Virginia snake. It is a Back Bay snake. The Pilot owns rights so you might want to check with them before putting it up.

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