Governor, Attorney General cherish past, not future

    Dear Governor Bob McDonnell: I was sad to learn that you declared April Confederate History Month. This declaration does not acknowledge the extent to which the Confederacy relied on slavery. The declaration also symbolizes a more general pattern of honoring past mistakes.

    As a Jewish person, I am offended by any positive recognition of the Confederacy and its symbols, as the Confederate flag is often used at Ku Klux Klan rallies. I fear further recognition will incite those members of the population who exclaim, “The South shall rise again.” The type of rising of which these people speak is not the economic resurgence toward which we are all working, but one that runs counter to the declaration of a former Virginia governor who wrote that “All men are created equal.”

    More importantly, Confederate History Month is a further example of Virginia’s administration’s intent to keep the commonwealth focused on its past instead of its future.

    The actions of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli are deplorable and continue to focus on the past. Cuccinelli has told the College of William and Mary that it does not have the right to institute a policy which protects homosexuals from discrimination while seeking employment, or while employed at the College. Doing this at a time when the state has forced the College to accept drastic budget cuts shows Cuccinelli does not see the larger picture of which he is a part. His decision to sue President Barack Obama, claiming the health care reform law is unconstitutional, is a further waste of the state’s valuable time and resources.

    Cuccinelli may believe his actions are providing Virginia with what it needs to recover. He may believe that the College is overzealous about its non-discrimination policy, and that a personal right to remain uninsured will help Virginians succeed.

    If so, he is sadly mistaken. When those who are currently uninsured get injured or become sick enough, they enter emergency rooms, where treatment cannot be refused. An emergency room is not designed to be a place to handle chronic medical care. As a result, patients with chronic conditions will always wait longer at these facilities. Emergency room visits that occur on account of a lack of insurance will cost hospitals and the state resources neither can afford. If we do not pay for the rising costs of health care through tax increases and mandates now, we will pay for them later when the price is higher.

    Our state will surely lose some of its finest medical facilities and the bright, compassionate minds that provide patient care. Businesses who fail to insure their employees will lose productivity, because employees’ conditions will worsen before they seek care they cannot afford.

    A governor wishing to foster a commonwealth of opportunity needs to ensure that budget cuts do not endanger the educated workforce that attracts businesses to the state. Elected for only one term, the governor is in the perfect position to make the case that the state should actually borrow the money it desperately needs to stimulate the economy. A system largely based on low income taxes is successful only as long as incomes are high. When a recession hits, and incomes and property values fall, this very successful system grinds to a halt. What is the use of maintaining Virginia’s high credit rating, if not to borrow at lower rates when the funds are most needed?

    In short, the question is: Where will your administration place its energies? Will it be focused on a future that keeps Virginia medical school graduates employed here in the state? Or will it be focused on a past that believes the short history of the Confederacy should be fondly remembered, and the right to remain uninsured should be forcefully defended, while the lives, careers and contributions of gay citizens remain woefully unprotected?

    E-mail Jason Conway at


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