While writing my book, "The Scalawag Scholar's Notes on Virginia," I carefully studied two locally important Civil War figures. One, Gen. Robert Milroy, administered Richmond for the U.S. Army 150 years ago. A committed abolitionist, he made the first effort ever to govern Winchester in a color-blind way. The other, Gen. Jubal Early, after his stint in the short-lived so-called "Confederate Army," spent his remaining decades re-writing history to fit the lost cause fraud, the propaganda basis for the Jim Crow system.
The evidence indicates that Milroy was a highly moral, if imperfect, person, while Early was a fabricator and hypocrite. So I proposed in a letter to another local paper that Winchester's Jubal Early Drive be re-named for Robert Milroy.
The many angry responses parroted Jubal Early-style "history" as it was taught under the one party regime of Virginia's former Jim Crow political boss, local boy Harry Byrd Sr. No surprise there.
What did surprise me was that, though I made the challenge in my first letter, not one of the men who denounced me accepted my offer to debate the matter.
I have tapped a well of resentment - but also apparently a well of shame and embarrassment. Though Winchester Confederate sympathizers claim they revere Jubal Early, their actions suggest they actually find him as shameful as I do, and apparently hope that he and I will go away.
A businessperson might lose a few customers, and a parent would be likely to embarrass his children by defending the man who built the lost cause structure of lies. One might even lose a few friends. But are these prices too high if one really believes Early was more worth honoring than Milroy? Or do these men know in their hearts that, like so many Virginia gentlemen of high repute, Jubal Early's life cannot bear a close examination?
So far, then, not one person is willing to stand up in a mutually selected forum and debate my condemnation of Early and his propaganda. I call this "silent massive resistance." I do not intend to be silent in response.
Larry Yates, Winchester