Letters: Why Do You Hate Robert E. Lee?

Published:August 27, 2009 by Brendan Wolfe

Robert E. Lee on Traveler

For the last several weeks, we have excerpted our Robert E. Lee entry into separate Virginia Vignettes:

The Vignettes strike me as interesting because they ask questions that attempt to get at a different side of the Marble Man. And a few readers agreed with me. But I’m always interested to hear from people who disagree, and I was not disappointed on that front. Regarding our first Vignette, we heard this:

Thankssss for the uplifting history. Please remove me from future mailings.

Those s‘s stand for sarcasm, I think. Regarding Lee after the Civil War, we received this comment:

This is the most liberal diatribe of “vignettes” ever produced! Can this person not say one thing positive about anything related to Confederate history? It’s like a self-serving agenda where every vignette is required to mention African-American History whether it relates to anything about the topic or not. And if race is mentioned, no one gets the full context. I thought Lee was commenting on white’s being disenfranchised. Read the Reconstruction Acts!

Finally, a reader who gets his Vignettes from his local newspaper sent us this:

As a native Virginian with ancestral ties to the Jamestown colony, I always looked forward to reading them until now. For reasons unknown to me, it appears that you have decided on a course to discredit General Robert E. Lee in the two most recent Vignettes. I am curious as to why you have singled out one of the most famous men in Virginia’s history. I find it interesting how you cite the works of authors who have shown a hostility in their views towards the South. It appears that your publication is just another example of political correctness run amuck.

I’ve responded to each of these readers one on one and have no interest, really, in defending the Vignettes in this space. But I am kind of peeved, and here’s why: None of these negative comments makes an argument; they just level accusations. Which is fine, as far as it goes. But in each case, I invited the readers to make their case at greater length and in greater detail. In one instance, I even invited him to use the space on this blog. None has responded.

I love feedback, and at Encyclopedia Virginia, we’ll likely create a space eventually where readers can discuss the merits and demerits of individual entries. Such discussion has the potential of creating greater collective understanding about the topic at hand. However, just declaring something “liberal” or “politically correct” while refusing to explain yourself—that actually detracts from our understanding. And that’s really frustrating.

If you have something to contribute, then by all means; we’re happy to give you the space.

IMAGE: Robert E. Lee on Traveler