Today is a legal holiday in the State of Florida. June 3rd is the birthday of one Jefferson Davis, first, only and not coincidentally, last president of the Confederate States of America. In his early days Davis attended West Point, where he was once placed under house arrest for his role in the 1826 Eggnog Riot, which started after cadets were caught smuggling whiskey into their barracks. This experience ironically prepared him for both a future in politics and prison, and he eventually wound up leading the nascent Confederacy for the entirety of its existence. Well, almost its entirety. The last six days of the Confederacy he spent running for his life, but he was there for most of it. And Florida recognizes the day of his birth as a legal holiday.
Now, there will be those of you who are offended that a man who came to symbolize racism and oppression and helped facilitate a war that caused the death of more than half a million people would be honored in my state with a legal holiday designation. I must remind you that experts tell us that the Civil War was not about slavery or oppression; it was about states' rights. More specifically, it was about the right of states to enslave and oppress entire groups of people based on nothing more than the pigmentation of their skin, but it was about rights, nonetheless. Nobody's perfect, and clearly the good folks of Florida didn't want to hold a small lapse of judgement against the man.
As far as I can tell, it is a very popular holiday here. I've been to 3 Walgreens, two CVS Pharmacies and a Hallmark Card Store, and every last one of them appears to have been completely cleaned out of their Jefferson Davis Birthday Holiday cards. There was not one to be found anywhere. Similarly, at Publix and Winn Dixie, there was not a Jefferson Davis themed birthday cake to be found. People here must grab those supplies early. I gave a very harsh lecture to one Walgreen's manager, letting her know that they really should plan more carefully for the holiday season.
This year the Jefferson Davis holiday really snuck up on me, and I completely missed two other legal Florida holidays; January 19th, which is the birthdate of General Robert E. Lee, and April 26th, which is Confederate Memorial Day.
Well, there is always next year. And unfortunately, in Florida, those dates are likely to still be legal holidays. Our legislature, which briefly entertained but ultimately failed to pass a bill two years ago to eliminate Confederate Memorial Day, is unlikely to address this anytime soon. Sometimes I don't think those guys could pass a kidney stone if a vote was required for it. Maybe they will get to it after they have boldly perfected the workers' compensation system here.
In other words, don't hold your breath.
I have some strong libertarian views on a few topics. I think that the movement to sanitize our history by the removal of statues and the like is a huge mistake over the long term. As for flying the Confederate flag, to me that is a personal decision protected by our First Amendment rights, but I challenge you to find any other nation where a side that lost the war flies their flag at local government facilities. I also see no need for state sanctioned honor for people who, in the end, were on the wrong side of history.
As far as legal holidays honoring heroes of a vanquished territory, that time in history has passed. If you want to personally celebrate Jefferson Davis' birthday, knock yourself out. But I'll warn you, you probably won't be able to find a holiday card dedicated to it anywhere.
Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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