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Perspective by Incongruity, #1

Another distraction. . . .

I’m a Yankee living south of the Mason-Dixon line. A granddaughter of working class Polish immigrants. A Detroiter. Life’s different down here. I’ve adjusted to the fact that the peanuts are boiled, not roasted. And I actually like my BBQ as pulled pork and tangy instead of whole cuts of beef and sweet.

But when we visit Stone Mountain—that Mount Rushmore of the Confederacy—I honestly don’t know how to explain to my sons what happened there as we walk past the secessionist memorials alongside our African-American neighbors. We take our boys to living museums—something my family did every weekend at Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village. But these war re-enactments are almost always from the Civil War.

And when my sons ask during the battle, “Who are the good guys, Mommy?” I can only sigh. I saw all those confederate bumper stickers when we walked in. I hear the lilt in the accent around me. So, like the good Burkean, I whisper very quietly, “It’s complicated, honey. They are all Americans.”

6 thoughts on “Perspective by Incongruity, #1

  1. I had a similar experience a few years ago. My wife and I went through an exhibit at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, MI. It was a collection of artifacts and items from all our presidents to date.

    We were proceeding through the exhibit, admiring all they had collected, when we turned the corner from the Lincoln collection to see things from Jefferson Davis. It struck me that he most certainly was an “American President” like the others, yet in a much darker time.

    The largely oppressive nature of “Reconstruction” is too often the dirty little secret of that particular war. If you need any more evidence of just how ugly civil wars can get, go study what happened in the Congo in the 1950’s or even today in Iraq and elsewhere around the globe.

    My own father was in General’s Headquarters in Tokyo after WW2. He didn’t speak of it much, but some of what he did say was very telling. The Japanese people were left to a pretty beaten down existence during the occupied period. I’ve got to think the South was very much the same thing.

    Good post.

  2. “But these war re-enactments are almost always from the Civil War.”

    Or, as I hear it called (I, too, am a Northerner transplanted to the South), “the War of Northern Aggression.”

  3. Hmmm, Grew up in the north and married a northerner. Our first task was to move back to the north. It just isn’t for us. I can’t handle all the subtly. I’d take a city full of “rude” northerners over a room filled with southerners.

  4. Or as Zeb Walton would always say…” it was the war between the states. There wasn’t nothin’ civil about it.”

  5. This is so sad! I know we have had our own embarassing events in Canada’s history, but they didn’t seem to have as bad an effect on us as your civil war did. I guess that’s the big difference between the tragedy of an actual civil war, and the painful humiliation of punishment for a local rebellious insurrection against the ruling government! I don’t know ‘what’ I’d tell my kids if I were put in such a position as to try to explain. I think the answer’ we’re all Americans, is the best one. Don’t know enough about the American Civil War to comment knowledgably. Only know, with sadness, that, the descendants of the Civil War Southernors have really ‘never’ gotten over it. The resentment lives on. So very sad. And look how that has poisoned so much of the South’s fundamentalist christian religion. Doubly sad because of that. Good to air these kinds of feelings and emotions in a healthy way though. Better out in the open, with honesty, than buried in frozen rage and resentment.

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