From January 2018:
On my way home from my weekly trek to the grocery store, I wondered who Time had named as its Person of the Year. I couldn’t think of a single personality who had dominated the news cycle for a full twelve months that would be a slam-dunk, ‘yes, that’s it,’ choice.
Then I thought of what I believed had dominated the news and I’m about to share my pick. Time did not concur and I have already shared on my Facebook page their choice and article about Time’s Person of the Year. Although they chose a worthy selection and I won’t quarrel with the #metoo and their analysis of how an outing of the sexual abuse women have suffered since forever has finally received its due condemnation, building over the course of a year, I want to offer something different.
For the 2017 Person of the Year, I offer you … Robert E. Lee.
Remember that Person of the Year is not someone admirable or execrable or somewhere in between. It is not an honor, but a recognition of that which had the most impact on events during the year.
The long pall of the Confederacy and its shadow dominated news events during 2017 and there is no one person who represents that era and place more than Lee. Indeed, it is rather unusual that a man who has been dead for almost 150 years dominates the present era. But there we go.
The election of Donald J. Trump, under the auspices of Steve Bannon, self-proclaimed leader of the alt-right, has given the neo-Nazis, KKK knights, angry young white men, and in general, the long-festering, hidden racism of too many people, the permission they craved to emerge into the light of day.
Robert E. Lee. Propose to remove a statue and all hell breaks loose.
In scenes reminiscent of Kristallnacht, men march through a college town, bearing Tiki torches from a local big box store (thus ruining forever anyone else’s party theme of Polynesia), scream out their hate. Later, in clashes with counter-protesters, one will lose his mind and drive his automobile at high speed into the crowd, killing a woman.
The protest of Colin Kaepernik grew throughout the year as NFL and NBA players increased the numbers taking a knee. It grew to gargantuan proportions when the president deemed himself possessed of the authority to dictate personnel policies to NFL owners, who are private business owners, after all. Oops, he kind of forgot that, didn’t he.
Black men protesting the systemic racism black men experience every day of their lives, every moment, they cannot escape it.
The ghost of Robert E. Lee hovers over the landscape. As he was told at the end of the war, when he dithered whether he had the authority to surrender and thus effectively end the war without the concurrence of Jefferson Davis and the Confederate government, “You, sir, are the South.”
It is the battle flag, not the national flag, of the Confederacy that the neo-Nazis and re-energized knights of the Klan wave.
The battle flag.
The protests will grow. Not only was 2017 dominated by the protest, but it will grow in the years to come.
Everyone will have to take a stand. Do you protest and condemn the killing of innocent black men, some of whom laid on a sidewalk with hands in the air or were retreating?
Do police departments continue in their systemic racism because the fear of a cop that his life is in danger excuses all?
Do we notice that the infant mortality rate of black women exceeds that of all others because of the racism that still carves itself into their flesh, their genes?
Will we say enough?
This news dominated not only 2017, but it will continue to drive events in America far into the future.
For that reason, I nominate Robert E. Lee as Person of the Year for 2017.