Robert E. Lee, Version 200: Confederate General's Legacy Reevaluated on His Birthday





Today, the United Daughters of the Confederacy plan to fly a Confederate flag on Washington Street in Alexandria, on the statue of a rebel soldier who faces South. The Virginia Sons of Confederate Veterans will gather for dinner in Richmond to honor the man they hail as "one of the greatest Americans."

It's the 200th birthday of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general who is revered by some and reviled by others. Commemorations and protests are planned across Virginia and other Southern states, proving that more than 140 years after the end of the Civil War, Lee is still a pivotal, controversial and complicated figure in American history and continuing race and culture wars.

In Virginia, where Lee was born, fought in the Civil War and died -- no matter whether he's viewed as a hero who fought brilliantly and valiantly for state's rights or as a traitor bent on protecting his state's right to own slaves -- his legacy looms large. Lee highways crisscross the state, including in the Washington region, Lee bridges cross rivers, high schools are named for him and the phone book lists hundreds of Robert E. Lees.

But beyond the heat and noise created by Lee's 21st-century defenders and detractors, there is a new move to reevaluate Lee and his legacy.

The premise of the new look is perhaps as controversial as Lee's image: As the South has become more racially and ethnically diverse and has prospered economically, perhaps the South doesn't need Lee so much anymore. Or at least not in the same way. Perhaps it is time to let him pass from marble icon and touchstone of white Southern identity into the annals of history as a charismatic and important human figure....

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Vernon Clayson - 1/20/2007

The author suggests it is time to let him pass from icon to history as a charasmatic and important figure??
Robert E. Lee is dead, as dead as Elvis, he passed long ago. Only desperate for something to write-about editorialists bring him up to stir up controversy. Lee lived in a distant age when slavery was a fact, he is dead and cannot be resurrected to be punished literally or through media censorship. His state meant much to him, perhaps if he had been of mind like the opportunist Hillary Clinton, he would have moved to New York and taken advantage of the easily fooled citizens of that state to become a revered statesman.

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