Today is Robert E. Lee's 200th Birthday, which is news that slipped my knowledge until I received a snarky email from Theo asking if I had anything special planned for the "holiday". In high school, such an event would probably just involve writing another fucking essay about Robert E. Lee and how he may not have actually been racist or something. Maybe if we were really lucky we'd get to go on a "field trip" to Stratford Hall, Lee's birthplace, which was about twelve miles from our school.
One thing I love about growing up where I did (okay, there's a very short list, and right off the top of my head the only other thing is that people don't make fun of the way I say "umbrella") is that I find it symbolic of how awkward and weird it is to grow up in the post-Civil Rights Era South. My county was the birthplace of both George Washington and Robert E. Lee, two important generals who impacted our country's history. There's such a huge stigma, however, in having any pride for Lee and his cohorts, since most Southerners see a fine line between pride and shame. If you're from Richmond, you're especially familiar with Robert E. Lee's polarizing legacy. I remember years of controversy surrounding a portrait of Lee, somewhere on display near the river. I can't remember how it was resolved. (Couch, care to fill us in?)
Until 2001, while the rest of the country celebrated Martin Luther King Day in January, Virginia celebrated Lee-Jackson-King Day. I always felt really gross about this; it was rather strange to remember two Confederate generals on the same day as Dr. King. And I didn't even realize until this year that the practice officially ended six years ago - I feel like I just assumed it still was in effect and people still called the holiday by its former name. (An interesting bit of trivia: I always thought Lee-Jackson-King Day was a response to MLK Day, the main reason I found the holiday to be most disgraceful. It turns out that Lee-Jackson Day preceded MLK Day.)
Had I known about Lee's birthday (I'm a bad ex-Southerner!), I probably would have come up with some way to (sort of) celebrate it. Instead, I think I'm just going to have KFC for lunch and listen to The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down". I can't really think of a better way, honestly.