In response to the recent letter to the editor ("Timing of Jackson-Lee event just coincidence?" Jan 21), it's time to play "Name That Conspiracy!" Let's hear the five top contenders and see which conspiracy theory creates the most angst and apoplexy in Baltimore:
1. The U.S. government blew up levies in New Orleans to kill African-Americans.
2. The U.S. government created HIV/AIDS to kill African-Americans.
3. The U.S. government faked the moon landing to fool everyone.
4. Elvis is alive and living incognito!
5. The Maryland Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans carefully coordinates their commemoration of the birthdays of Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson to protest the Martin Luther King holiday and to demean his legacy.
If you chose Number 5, you are correct! But if you believe it, you are very wrong. The beauty of conspiracy theories, beyond their absurdity factor, is the sad fact that proponents of such drivel need not and cannot offer credible evidence to corroborate their spurious accusations and fanciful claims. However, repeated enough, such theories can assume a life of their own and even garner prominent notoriety in sensationalist publications catering to the tin foil hat brigades while they wait for their groceries to be bagged.
Believing Number 5 to be true, opponents of the annual Lee/Jackson commemoration in Wyman Park are fixated on a one-hour ceremony. In their alternate universe, this event is a broken levee that releases a gushing torrent of racism contributing to the ills of the city. For those of us grounded in reality and its incumbent responsibilities, one might wonder why their exertions are not more in accord with the real problems of Baltimore including murders, drugs, roving gangs, crumbling schools and dysfunctional families. These are truly devastating consequences born of multi-generational government dependency, poor decision making, immoral behavior and a lack of personal responsibility. Such failures are not a consequence of exposure to a Confederate flag or a ceremony to honor Generals Lee and Jackson. Ergo, two dead generals are not the biggest or even the smallest problem plaguing Baltimore today.
As to the unfounded and inane, yet subtle, assertion via the rhetorical question, "Is there a pattern here?" that the event is hosted by racists for racists to promote racism, I will not dignify such a vulgar insinuation with an answer since the inquisitor is unfamiliar with history, me and the honorable men of the SCV Maryland Division. A denial would merely elicit the response that "only a racist would deny being a racist." In fact, when one lacks a cohesive and intelligible argument, a charge of racism is a pathetically desperate appeal to raw emotion and indicative proof that the accuser's claim is devoid of any plausible defense or foundation.
The birthdays of Generals Lee and Jackson have been commemorated since their deaths in 1870 and 1863, respectively. Recognition of their lives and service has been an annual occurrence at Wyman Park on the Saturday closest to their birthdays when practicable and with variable participation since the monument's dedication in 1948. Note to the date-challenged: 1948 numerically precedes 1986 (the first year observance of Dr. King's holiday) which means this ceremony is an established event going back many years before 1986 and our ceremony is never on Dr. Martin Luther King Day. For the record, we are the "SCV Maryland Division" and no member of this organization has ever stated on Lee/Jackson Day or at any other of our many annual events that "slavery had nothing to do with the Civil War." But, no doubt, this fact will be disputed too.
Hiding behind unsubstantiated and fallacious accusations of racism, quibbling over dates and pontificating about alleged SCV claims are exercises in sophistry to hide the real agenda. So let's be honest: no date on the calendar would satisfy this banal obsession with the chronology of Lee-Jackson Day. The objective of our detractors is not for us to "change the date" but to "change the history" and to go away forever. This we will not do. We will, however, continue to honor our Confederate ancestors legally and peacefully — when, where, and how we deem appropriate.
Jay Barringer, Eldersburg
The writer is commander of the Maryland division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.