Richmond’s Gong Show


ne wonders after nearly three months in office, just what is going on in the head of Gov. Bob McDonnell.

After about a decade of steadily building a reputation for reason and fair-mindedness, suddenly Virginia is the Butt of All Jokes. We’ve made Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” on the Comedy Channel, Gail Collins in the op ed of The New York Times, the lede story on AOL news and on and on.
The latest bit of mindlessness is McDonnell’s resurrecting April Confederate History Month after his two Democratic predecessors quietly laid it to rest much to the thanks of the African-American community. Not only did McDonnell issue a small but very loud decree reinstating the month-long memorial, he somehow (hard to believe) completely left out any recollection of slavery.
To his credit, McDonnell issued a public apology and retracted his initial forgetfulness and ponied up that slavery was (ahem) a bad thing. But the damage had been done. What was he thinking when he made the original proclamation?
As Rasheed N.C. Wyatt, president of the Newport News chapter of the NAACP said: “Although the Governor has issued an apology after the fire storm of public pressure, he still misses the point. Inserting language to a proclamation which is already offensive simply demonstrates how out of touch he is with the African-American community.”
The new Gong Show in Richmond is gaining a lot of bad press and ridicule.
Exhibit A is our Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli whose proclamation that public universities had no legal basis to ban discrimination against gays and lesbians provided fodder for Jon Stewart. He had a field day displaying “the Cooch’s” photos and then reminding the national television audience of the famous “Virginia Is For Lovers” tourism slogan.
Cuccinelli has also won attention for his suits against the federal EPA on global warming and for his threat to sue on new mileage standards for cars. Before this, McDonnell won a lot of coast-to-coast disgust and/or bemusement for his early 1980s master’s thesis which said that women needed to stay at home and that gays and fornicators deserved no state protection.
All of this makes Virginia look like it did look a few decades ago — a bunch of Rednecks and would-be Southern patricians still living in their mythology and wanting the rest of us to embrace it.
Homage to the Confederacy is simply too dangerous a mine field to tread. After Richmond fell in April, 1865 and after reconstruction, there was a New Reconstruction around about the 1890s. That’s when Jim Crow laws, unheard of before, suddenly became “the Southern way of doing things — the way things always were.” Richmond became the destination for thousands of white former Confederate soldiers, who, finally free of Northern occupation garrisons, started the moonlight and magnolia romance that was in large part mythology.
Monument Avenue in the former Confederate Capital remains a kid of kitschy leftover. What other city would have Paris-style streets commemorating Robert E. Lee and his horse Traveler or Stonewall Jackson and his horse Old Sorrel?
Don’t get me wrong, I have always been a student of the conflict and believe that there are things to admire in people like Lee and Jackson, who, strangely, broke state law and educated blacks when he lived in Lexington.
I also remember that for a college project, I wrote an amateur history of the federal occupation of a small North Carolina coastal town. My primary source was the diary of a Union naval officer who took part in the occupation which was designed to keep British arms and ammunition from moving up Tar Heel rivers and into Southern hands. The diary stood in complete opposition to what the old families of that Southern town believed. Their relatives, according to the naval officer, welcomed the hated Yankees with open arms when their gunboats steamed into town.
But I stray from the point. One has to wonder when McDonnell will figure out his job. It’s not as if the liberal national media is just waiting to pounce while watching over him with a microscope.
McDonnell and sidekick the “Cooch” are doing a fine job of making themselves easy targets.
Peter Galuszka

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2 responses to “Richmond’s Gong Show”

  1. I wonder what his comrade, Michael Steele, Chairman of the RNC thinks of all this?

    Maybe they should get t/g and make some fundraising calls to patch things up…..

  2. Mimi Stratton Avatar
    Mimi Stratton

    I'm really tired of clueless whitebread male politicians. You can bet I've joined the Virginia Democratic Women's Caucus and will be looking for a gubernatorial candidate to support in 2012 that has an understanding of diversity.

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