Opinion: Don't Celebrate Robert E. Lee on the Same Day as Martin Luther King Jr.

Walter Rhein

Photo byWalter Rhein

It has come to my attention that in some places in the United States, it’s common to combine Martin Luther King Jr. day with a celebration of Robert E. Lee. They call it King-Lee day or sometimes Lee-King day.

The fact that this does not cause widespread outrage is proof of how much of our country is indoctrinated with authoritarian propaganda.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights activist that worked for the benefit of all humankind. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t know much about King beyond the “I have a dream” speech. Although that phrase is poetic, it does not provide a good overview of King’s philosophy.

Unfortunately, fabricated right-wing outrage over concepts like critical race theory (CRT), which isn’t even being taught in schools, makes teachers reluctant to present the facts about our country’s history.

The result is that not many Americans recognize that Robert E. Lee was a losing soldier who fought in the service of tyrants.

If you recoiled at using that word, you need to stop and think about it for a moment. What else could you call plantation owners but tyrants? They held people as slaves. They abused these slaves. They had breeding farms. The Confederate south represented tyranny in its very worst form.

It’s absurd that Americans should regard Robert E. Lee as an honorable or heroic figure. He betrayed his nation and fought on the side of the worst people in history.

The reason that many Americans insist they must defend Lee is part of the “Lost Cause” narrative that has made its way to American textbooks. Parents who waste energy complaining about the non-existent teaching of CRT would be better served to insist their students were taught the truth about the Civil War.

The reason the Lost Cause narrative makes its way into so many textbooks is that Texas is one of the largest markets for high school textbooks. Think about that for a minute.

Naturally, Texas gets its feathers ruffled when students are taught the truth about how the “great” state seceded. Remember that Confederate states wished to Assassinate Lincoln and destroy our country. Therefore, Texas is more inclined to purchase textbooks that fabricate false positives.

Let’s face it, from the Alamo to the Civil War, Texas tends to lose its battles. I know they like to think of themselves as “tough guys” but you can’t change history just because you’re embarrassed by it.

Combining Martin Luther King Jr. day with a celebration of Robert E. Lee is a component of the “Lost Cause” narrative. Martin Luther King Jr. deserves to be honored and celebrated. Robert E. Lee doesn’t. Nefarious forces are trying to steal King’s deserved reputation and affix it to Lee with a hyphen.

I bet white supremacists sit around and giggle when they see signs proclaiming “King-Lee” day because they know it’s a swipe at King. It would be the same as trying to turn Christmas into a joint celebration honoring both Jesus and Hitler.

If you can understand how that is offensive, it should allow you to see how King-Lee day is also objectionable.

The problem with the United States of America right now is that it’s disrespectful and divided. At some point, it would be nice if the losers of history would stop whining about how they were “cheated” and admit that they’re just not that popular.

From the Civil War to the 2020 election, we’ve seen entitled people throw temper tantrums and try to deny reality. They go so far as to insert their false narrative of history into high school textbooks and use those textbooks to indoctrinate kids.

The problem is that the kids in our society are often a lot smarter than adults. They know what’s happening. They know that there’s a big difference between reality and the lies they’re told.

There is no defense for celebrating Robert E. Lee at all. He is one of those figures who ended up on the wrong side of history. You can’t change reality by trying to insert Lee’s name into a day that celebrates a true hero like Martin Luther King Jr.

It's time for the United States of America to grow up and recognize the true heroes of history.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI

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