The King-Lee holiday Monday will come with no word yet on promised legislation to end the dual observance of birthdays of a civil rights giant and a general who fought to preserve slavery.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, to his credit, has forthrightly called for separation of the events, though he’d retain some observance for Robert E. Lee in the law. That doesn’t sit well with some legislators, such as Rep. Fred Love, quoted in Drew Petrimoulx’s story for KARK.
Disappointing in the KARK account is House Speaker Jeremy Gillam’s indecision. Only a handful of slave states in the South observe Lee’s birthday. The observances have roots in 20th century resistance to equal rights for black people. It shouldn’t take courage to wipe this vestige of implicit discrimination from our statute books. But Gillam plans to run for secretary of state in 2018. He may fear making the League of the South unhappy.
“I haven’t made a decision on that yet,” House Speaker Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, said during a Thursday press conference. Gillam says he plans to take the upcoming holiday weekend to talk with constituents and gauge support in his district.
“I’m having a lot of discussions,” he said.
If there ever was a time to lead, not follow coffee shop talk from angry old retrogrades, now is the time.
But the Lost Cause regiment is a noisy and disagreeable group. Nate Bell, the former legislator who tried to end the dual holiday in 2015, says on social media that they have begun their intimidation tactics against legislators again this year.
The legislative spectacle will make fine fodder for other states to distribute when competing with Arkansas for industrial development.
“Y’all still fighting the Civil War down there? Really?”
(The high irony continues that Union sentiment was high in that region of Arkansas that was the birthplace of today’s Republican majority.)