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I Don’t Get It

I’d meant to hit on this early in the week, but here it is now: I don’t get the whole American Civil War reenactment, enthusiast, nostalgia thing. I don’t get it at all. 600,000 people died in that war, killed by their own countrymen–a figure that represented three percent of the American population at the time. That would be the equivalent of a conflict that took 9 million lives today.

As I blogged earlier, I spent Memorial Day (formerly Decoration Day, originally to commemorate fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War) camping up in the pacific redwoods near Santa Cruz. A short hike down a trail brings one to Roaring Camp and it was here that hundreds (at least) Civil War "enthusiasts" (for lack of a better term) gathered for their annual mock-up, display, and battle reenactment. This is no idle hobby. These people range from the serious to the obsessed. We’re talking authenticity down–I imagine–to their underwear. In that sense, I was quite impressed with the whole thing. I like and appreciate people who take things seriously and go all out for their values, particularly when it involves the resurrection of things long past. Such endeavors require years of painstaking effort to scour, collect, restore and preserve.

But I just don’t get the whole enthusiasm for it in the way it appears to be presented in this context–as a value. I won’t dispute that there are some valuable lessons to be learned from it, but the nostalgia is just a bit over the top, I think.

Let’s not forget the most fundamental reason for the war: secession. Now, of course, there were reasons underlying why those seven confederate states acted to secede from the United States but the point is that they were not recognized to have any right to determine their own affairs. The Union did not go to war with them to free the negro slave as many of you were taught in school. Ironically, the Union went to war in order to keep the southern states chained to the north. In Lincoln’s own words:

I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

Not quite what you leaned in grade school, eh? Well, it is a very complex topic and I don’t mean to paint the confederacy as victims, per se. They established a coercive state too and appear to have laid their own expansionist plans. That’s what the state does.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

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