Sunday, August 26, 2007

April 12, 1861

In the onset of one of the upheavals that otherwise happy families experience, I was whisked out of Hancock Park Elementary School in beautiful midtown Los Angeles at the end of fourth grade and plunked variously into grammar schools in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Florida before returning to native land. In each of these places, we studied or had presented to us materials and concepts related to the above captioned date.

In California, teachers with no discernible accent called it The American Civil War.
In New Jersey,teachers who had difficulties pronouncing "th," particularly after an "r" called it The War between the States.
In Massachusetts and Rhode Island, teachers who made the word khaki sound like an instruent to start a car, called it The War of Southern Resistance.
In Florida, it was presented to us as The War of Northern Aggression. If a word happened to end with an "r," the "r" was not pronounced.

No matter where it was presented, the conflict began in earnest when eleven states claimed a right to succession from the Union, proceeded to do so, then set about attacking the enemy--which is to say Federal--holdings at Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

The following year, 1862, almost a year to the day after Fort Sumter, a tremendous battle, The Battle of Pittsburgh Landing, also called Shiloh, was fought when Confederate Generals Beauregard and Johnston set off a surprise attack against the Union forces led by General Grant, almost defeating the Union Army. Months later, in an engagement that was to become the scene of nearly twenty-three thousand deaths, General Lee launched an attack on Northern soil. Known in the South as the battle of Sharpsburg, and by the Union forces as Antietam, this confrontation established the war as an unparalleled disaster in terms of lives lost, property ruined, families and organizations utterly disrupted.

This is all the back story to the point I'm building, which is that the war was more than a single issue of slavery, had to do as well with the so-called Industrial Revolution, workers rights, and impinged on interpretations of the federal constitution, The Constitution that was ratified by all the states in the Union at the time.

Whatever your political views, it is not uncommon for a discussion on, say, States Rights or perhaps Civil Rights, or even voters rights to include a reference to that war, that Civil War fought with suc
h cruelty and viciousness nearly a hundred fifty years ago.

At the time the conflict was still in progress, suppose England, arguably one of the more powerful countries in the world, a monarchy, sent in a military force to bring the Union and Confederacy to their political senses and restore democracy.

We had in many ways weapons of mass destruction, demonstrable in the presence of guns that were no longer smooth bore but rather had rifling and grooves which assured greater accuracy and distance.

Suppose they came.

Or the French.

And hey, what about Belgium? Okay, King Leopold was only a kid at the time, but the momentum to colonize the Congo was certainly simmering.

What outrages would we have expressed to the offer of noblesse oblige?

And yet someone orchestrates an heinous coup against a major American population center and a vital military command post, and we have that individual pretty well located, but we ignore him and intervene in the civil war of another country, pouring untold finances and lives (because we really don't keep score on how many of them have been killed) into the abyss.

And now the leader of our democratizing forces has let it slip that he expects us to be in the midst of this civil war for eight or nine years.

The logic that got us in Iraq in the first place has made a pinata out of the U.S. Constitution.

Happy Fiesta!

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Jon said...

I wonder if the Brits would have carted off select Native Americans and kept them in Jamaica as enemy combatants?

Oh, and those lost Rs in Florida? They wound up in Boston...Cubar anyone?

Anonymous said...

I reiterate my position: California should secede from the Union. Our governor (and I can't believe I'm about to support him, but hell, let's give credit where credit is due) had talks with Tony Blair regarding the environment. The economy of California would certainly be in the top ten of the world if it stood on its own against other nations. And we've got everything we need right here: Yosemite, Big Sur, the redwoods, Death Valley, the Central Valley, Silicon Valley, the San Fernando Valley, the Salinas Valley, Venice Beach, North Beach, Avila Beach, islands and piers and freeways, the Port of Los Angeles, the Port of Long Beach, LAX, SFO, Hollywood, beautiful downtown Burbank, the Golden Gate, Lombard Street, Rodeo Drive, Front Street, In 'N Out, Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles, Du-Par's, Ralphs, Vons, snow and sand and surf, hiking and biking, Google and Apple and We could always use our California passports to visit the United States and remind ourselves why we don't live there. Secession. Not as crazy as it sounds. ;-)

John Eaton said...

Righteous postage, Shelly.

As to secessionals, we will be happy to send some pecans and assorted other goods to our friends in the west, provided our friends to the north will let us travel freely.

Ever since that unfortunate business some years ago, we still have a long way to go.

John :)