April 8, 2011

Continuations of an Uncivil War -- in Congress

The Civil War started on April 12, 1861 so this year marks the sesquisentennial--150 years.  The war ended April 9, 1865 at Appomattox Courthouse.  We see this continuation in Lincoln's death a week later on April 14, 1865.

Nearly 150 years after Appomattox, we C-Span groupies watch the uncivil political debates going on about defunding planned parenthood, redefining the crime of rape, attempts to defund any opposition views that may or may not be paid for by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and other acts of political aggression against the poor, the middle class, people of color, people who have progressive views, gays and women.

The Civil War continues.  We just don't have the cool music that Ken Burns' documentary.  Nor, thankfully, do we have the grapeshot and cannon booming in the background.  This particular episode of the war is being waged with money.

In the intervening years, we have learned nothing about the fact that when we raise up our brothers and sisters raise ourselves.  What we have learned, I suspect, is that government requiring us to help one another is always going to be criticized. 

We see this each time the Tea and Repubican parties refuse to pass legislation that would benefit the middle class, the poor, the women in this country, the young soldiers refused medical assistance for PTSD and continue instead to help their cronies in Wall Street and the health care industry.

Civil War

The Civil War started on April 12, 1861 so this year marks the sesquisentennial--150 years ago.  The war ended at April 9, the two commanders met at Appomattox Courthouse where the two commanders, Grant and Lee met on April 9th.  Tomorrow is April 9th and the Civil War continues.  True, no one is publicly sold as slaves in the open market places of the United States.  True, races together can eat, play and live.  But are principles of fairness, equity and opportunity open to all or is that just an illusion?

I would argue that the terms have shifted.  Instead of slaves in physical terms, today we speak of 'wage slaves,' or the monetary losses of the 'middle class.'  Tonight I watch C-Span and watch Senator Harry Reid work for saving womens' lives in trying to deny Republican ideologues in their attempt to deny funding for Planned Parenthood and Title 10 and other riders that are too numerous to mention.  I am proud of the Democrats in defying these despicable politicians.

The Civil War continues.

April 6, 2011

Interesting Observations

Recovering from life with pain means more than letting the pain go.  It means being able to prepare food for breakfast, lunch and dinner and being free enough of pain to eat.  It means reminding myself that eating is a good thing.  So tonight I wonder ... what role does low weight play in disease for humans.  I suspect there are many well researched articles about that.  

Historians of the Civil War Documentary and Music as History

Before Ken Burns, I must admit I never read these authors.  Now I will look them out.
Shelby Foot, Barbara J. Fields, Ed Bearss and Stephen B. Oates are just a few
And voices now gone forever...Shelby Foot died 2005.  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4721849


And for further study http://www.amazon.com/Civil-War-Traditional-Instrumental-Soundtrack/dp/B000005J0O
which is the soundtrack of the series.  What to study further are the song books after the war where song titled, 'Oh what was your name in the States?'

Murder by Prison Camps and other means

13,000 deaths at Andersonville.  Rattlesnake Island, Ohio boasted its own prisoners -- Southern this time. If the South had won the war, we would be reading about Rattlesnake Island and others' I haven't even heard of, instead of Andersonville.   Mans' inhumanity to man continues from the beginning of time until now.  www.pbs.org/kenburns/

Death comes to all of us but we humans like to think that we are in charge of it.  We can choose when it will happen or at least we think can when we plan for it.  We are such planners, from abatoirs to salon rooms.   But death comes when it comes.  It wipes before it animals, crops, soldiers and those women and children and animals left behind.  Sad.  It comes when it comes. 

When you Look

When you look at events that shape us...from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, to reporters who grew to prominence in either of those (Belva Davis and Horace Greeley to name a few of those reporters), the soldiers who went on to become outlaws in the West it is amazing.  Much of life is practice.  We learn to walk, we learn our lessons, our maths, our music, our language.  Our environment shapes our language, our lessons, and our music which is a fact that isn't always recognized.  When you look at the world through either the south's or the north's prism becomes crystal clear.  But it wasn't clear and remains unclear 150 years after the war's end.  I have been at dinners with Civil War re-enactors when guests came close to blows for continuing to support their sides of the War.  

US Grant and Horses

There is a story about US Grant who severely disciplined a quartermaster for mistreating a horse on the eve of the Gettysburg campaign.   Truly heartening to know since animals have always borne the greater risks from marauding armies, caltrops, use as food animals for starving soldiers and being shot out from under their riders.  But this toll great greater when war because mass death to soldiers.  It just great worse as our ability to become the Henry Fords of death increased.  Civil War, WWI and WWII, and others kill so many not regularly reported on.  Animals in Sudan, Lebanon, conflicts every where.  Terrible slaughter that only get reported by rescue groups for dogs, cats, and wildlife.  Tragic.

So hearing stories about Grant and horses are so heartening.  

Things Learned

Civil War...photography comes of age as does embalming.  Chemistry.  Mass produced deaths from guns, artillery, disease, starvation brought military hospitals where doctors and medical arts improved if only to keep up with the carnage.  Clara Barton started the first of the Red Cross which is now world wide.  One of the first sanitation officers who went on to design New York's Central Park began his career as administrator in the Civil War.  This was an extremely important position (never before thought about) which became the basis for the trash haulers and sanitation officers of today.

Here is a snippet from Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Law_Olmsted

Civil War

Olmsted took leave as director of Central Park to work as Executive Secretary of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, a precursor to the Red Cross in Washington, D.C.. He tended to the wounded during the American Civil War. In 1862, during Union General George B. McClellan's Peninsula Campaign, Olmsted headed the medical effort for the sick and wounded at White House in New Kent County, where there was a ship landing on the Pamunkey River.
On the home front, Olmsted was one of the six founding members of the Union League Club of New York.

When we are very, very wise and very, very lucky, adversity can teach us.

What I never Realized in the Civil War

I keep forgetting how many luminaries of the 19th Century were alive during the Civil War.  Nathanial Hawthorn, Walt Whitman (who nursed others in the hospitals in Washington, DC), Emily Dickinson, Henry Adams, Henry James, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, Clara Barton, Emerson, and others.  And the list goes on and on.  And just regular folks who write movingly beyond our ability these days.  Truly stunning prose.  Truly stunning.

Bearing Witness

Ken Burns' Civil War series is remarkable.  This is the first time I have had the time to sit and bear witness to the sacrifices and mastery of Burns' narrative and grasp of history.  Remarkable historians give their narrative of the war and adding both local color and insights.  Museums give their photographic views masterfully brought into life by Burns' ability to use static media to tell active tales.  Music and actors narrating heartbreaking and joyous stories.  The sweep is breathtaking.

I have some stake in this war and some stake in understanding how brilliant Burns' ability is.  My family fought on both sides and are died at places I could never fix in my mind -- The Wilderness Campaign, Chickamauga, Chancellorsville, and others.  Now I can see them.  I can see the skulls from the prior battles still lying on the ground that my ancestors must have fought at.  Chilling.  Truly chilling.  And Burns' ability not to sink into pathos and dismal stories is awesome.

Back in college, I assisted a history student in putting together a multi-media presentation together.  We pulled together music, narrated the snippets of history backing the photographs and making slides of the photos for the show.  These shows look simple, easy, but they are not.  Truly a depth of skills goes into them.

So sad, so sad, so sad though.