The war that was never forgotten


I had never thought about the Civil War in this context until recently when I came across the expression in a work of fiction I was reading.artillery-civil-war-001 It stopped me in my tracks and I didn’t return to reading that book for a good long time.

The war that never was forgotten.

The war that never was forgotten.

It’s an interesting thought because it makes sense in light of the struggles we are having in this country.  U.S. Citizens like to think of ourselves as a people of law and we demonstrate that self-perception by being a very litigious people.  We have the idea that if something is wrong, you go the the legals system to make it right.

Other nations don’t necessarily do that.  In many places around the world you first go to the family of those involved; or to the tribe; they solve their problems in context; elders and respected individuals will make the call on who’s right, who’s wrong, and they see to it that peace and order are restored.  By and large the populace consents to a legal system without a lot of lawyers.  Their lives look a lot different than ours but it’s a system that works.

america-you-are-so-much-more
The past couple years have made it clear, so my great sadness.

In a system with a lot of laws and very little context and a lot of laws it’s presumed that once the law has taken effect the matter is resolved.  But increasingly that appears not to be the case in this country.  More and more lawsuits, and more and more appeals — when the law has spoken people are still not satisfied.  The extremes of this king of behavior are to be seen in the Middle East where grudges and “wrongs” done a thousand years or more ago are still unsettled and the wounds are still raw.

There were a lot of causes of the American Civil War, but race relations was certainly in there among the other causes.  I’m not a historian or an anthropologist but I don’t think you need those credentials to admit the fact that race has been a huge issue in this country before the end of slavery and ever since.  I’m not sure women’s rights we as much a part of the Civil War but perhaps the question of whether citizens are expected to respect human rights regardless of the human is as much the issue as race.  Today women as well as races other than caucasian still struggle to be treated the same as “whites.”

As we wandered around the country in our RV I commented numerous times about the presence or absence of diversity in the places we visited.  It’s something that has always troubled me — not only in the way we have dealt with our neighbors and co-workers in this country — but also in the way we lie to ourselves about how we feel about other people.

Now that we have better access to the Internet (because of our location) I have been catching up on some old youtube videos:  specifically old British and American comedies and mysteries.  It’s easy to see why some of them aren’t popular any more — there was a lot of bigotry and and hatred shown as part and parcel of the social fabric of the time.  No one thought much about it then — society hadn’t really awoke to the problems we are dealing with now but it was there on the screen to be seen.  All of which reminded me that some things don’t change very much or very fast.  50 years on we are still fighting the same racial issues we did back then.  The terminology and the emphasis has altered slightly — but the fundamental issues are still the same:  how do you treat everyone equally; or do you; or should you; or do you even realize you aren’t?

The issues of the Civil War have not been forgot.  Not many months past the furor was over the Confederate Flag — with some people decrying it’s continuing presence in U.S. society and others trying desperately to assert that it didn’t stand for what their opponents claimed.

when-you-are-accustomedI don’t think we have yet realized that we individually don’t get to pick what someone else is offended by.  My actions may hurt someone else and when I’m made to realize that I’m causing harm it’s up to me to decide whether I’m going to modify my actions or not.

This is a much harder thing to accept the more you possess.  When you have been accustomed to privilege, then to be treated just like everyone else feels like oppression, it feels like you are being devalued, it risks your belongings and all those things that “you and your people worked so hard for”.

You see… I don’t see how you ever get past that.  If we are to believe Bernie Sanders graphicthe-top-1-percent then the ones who have the ability to make the greatest change in how people are treated are the exact same ones who stand to lose the most — their privilege.  And, while not defending their objections, it’s perfectly understandable that they might squeal like stuck pigs over the idea of giving up “what they worked so hard for”  to help others — and we won’t even talk about whether they see those “others” as working hard or not.  Bottom line is that some have to sacrifice in order to benefit others.  I really wonder how realistic it is to think that this is going to happen peacefully. I am not in favor of violence — I have been a pacifist all my life — but I find it hard to see how the rising tide of dissatisfaction ends without a bang.

V
Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
–– Hollow Men / T.S. Eliot

Most of my life I lived in the Upper Midwest where diversity was common place. Blacks and whites didn’t get along all that well in general. Milwaukee saw race riots in — what was it?  ’68 or ’69?  I worked elbow and shoulder with people of a variety of races and never thought much about it.  Now, 50 years later I find myself choosing to settle for at least part of the year in an area when I am a clear minority.  87% of the local population is hispanic and I really ought to be polishing up my language skills because even though I’ve never had a problem functioning here in the Rio Grande Valley — I suspect there is more Mexican being spoken here than English.  Which is ok.  It’s a changing world I accept that.

The park population here is congenial.  Regardless of their background the residents have been wonderfully open to residents as they arrive.  There is some longterm population; a few local residents who work in the community. Clearly it’s mostly for traveling RV’ers but I’ve not seen any indication of bias.

The local population clearly appreciates the presence of Winter Texans. The economy benefits tremendously and as yet there aren’t so many Winter Texans as to make life difficult for the locals.  I think that has been part of the problem in Florida — so many people want to visit/live there that residents feel put upon and inconvenienced.

As a nation we are still struggling with our identity.  I’m not sure we’ll ever resolve the struggle.  Or whether the question of racial bias is even solvable — it would seem we humans have been fighting each other for as long as the tale of history.

As a person, what I can really do is to treat people well.  I’m not sure that attitude is any different than I’ve ever felt but I’m surely more aware of the need to do so in this current social climate.  There’s too much hatred; too much greed;  I’m not much of a beacon of light but I can at least do my little bit in a world consumed by darkness.

Thanks for stopping and I’ll be here tomorrow. Why not stop and say Hi!

 

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