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Virginia governor: Is it so wrong to love the Old South?

The Virginia governor, Bob McDonnell, is reinstating Confederate History Month. But that brings back ideas and symbols of the Old South that are offensive to many Americans – including many Southerners.

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"Confederate history is full of many things that unfortunately are not put forth in a proclamation of this kind, nor are they things that anyone wants to celebrate," former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who is the first African-American to win the governor's office in Virginia, tells the Post. "It's one thing to sound a cause of rallying a base. But it's quite another to distort history."

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One backdrop to efforts like McDonnell's declaration is what Southern Legal Resource Center founder Kirk Lyons describes as a situation where Southerners are facing discrimination, harassment, humiliation, employment termination, and school suspensions "simply because they're proud of their Confederate ancestry."

At the same time, some Southerners are starting to reclaim their heritage, in part by flying giant Confederate flags along Southern interstates.

McDonnell, who has been known as a staunch social conservative, avoided hot-button cultural issues during a governor's race that was seen as a repudiation of recent Democratic victories across the United States. But he has since waded into cultural issues such the gay rights debate and now Confederate commemorations.

Politically, McDonnell's move shows the tone-deafness of Republicans, writes Charles Johnson in True/Slant, an online news network. "Republicans like McDonnell are reveling in their racism, and pandering to the most vile segments of US society," he writes. "And then they whine and complain when African Americans want nothing to do with them."

Shawn Rider, in a review of Tony Horwitz's "Confederates in the Attic," writes that the age-old pull between the darker meaning of the Civil War's symbols and the affection Southerners have for their ancestors who fought and died in the Civil War is an enduring American condition.

"[G]reat enthusiasm leads to reverence for ancestors that do not necessarily deserve it," he concludes. "Still, it is not as if any individual can decide for another which ancestors are worth revering… [W]e need the courage to confront our [past] head on ...."

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