photo by Sheri Dixon

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Weren't Nuthin' Civil About It

So Ward and I went to the Pearce Civil War Museum today. It's in Corsicana on the campus of Navarro College, and I must say I was dumbfounded that such a thing sits quietly smack dab in the center of East Texas.

Oh, not surprised that there's a Civil War museum in East Texas; it's the content and presentation that makes this one unique. The Pearce family collected letters. Soldier's letters home from the battlegrounds of the Civil War- both Yankee and Rebel.

Over 6,000 letters from every battlefield and spanning the entire war.

It's accompanied by photographs, but not the grainy and marginally uncomfortable ones we're used to seeing. These show the dead in varying degrees of dead-ness, soldiers and horses, skulls and tattered garments, parts missing and scattered. Life sized and awful with silent timeless horror.

It takes a few hours to work your way through it- from the first few months of rugged adventurers so sure they'd be home in a few weeks, to the stark reality of what a war really means, to being hungry and ill-equipped and clothed, exhausted and shell-shocked as the war dragged on year after year and the young men fell like wheat to the harvester by the thousands.

The Union soldiers were worn out, but the Confederates were starving and started to desert- surrendering just to get something to eat. Those who were caught deserting were hung or shot by their own troops.

One wrote, "I'm going home. Jeff Davis can come fight his own war."

It's somber and sobering and not for little kids. And as we made our way through it, we couldn't help but feel our hearts grow cold with the familiarity of it all, and it seems to us that we haven't learned anything at all as a nation.

In the beginning, both sides were so very sure of the rightness of their cause, and almost eager to wipe out "the damn Yankees" or the "rebel Secesh's" like they weren't even the same species, much less citizens of the same nation. How one side thought was completely foreign to the other side and there was no attempt made at compromise and HOLY SHIT that sounds so familiar!

Down around about the second year of that war that was supposed to last a few weeks, the common threads that ran through all the letters from either side were

-I want to go home

-What are we even fighting for?

-I'm sick of killing other young men who are just like me

-What the hell are we doing? We're all Americans

And it finally ended, and the general feeling was that it had been so horrible and so closely terminal for this nation that we would never ever 'go' there again.

And yet...

...the narrator in the little 'self-tour wand' stated matter-of-factly at the very end that there were those in the South who were not anywhere near OK with how the war ended and who wanted to continue fighting...till the death if necessary.

And apparently down through the generations from the number of Confederate flags still being waved around these parts.

The scary thing is that we're not divided North/South anymore, it's more of a Coasts/Heartland or Urban/Rural divide, but divided we are and divided we'll fall very soon unless we put a stop to it now. Only we can do that- person to person from the bottom up.

I know. The issues.

I know. They're important. And they are. We all have those issues that are dear to our hearts, whether it's gun rights, or women's rights or health care or the environment or campaign reform. If we're lucky, we juggle more than one issue tenderly and with passion, because then we are aware that things are interconnected...we are interconnected.

We are all of us interconnected no matter how foreign we seem to each other.

We're all Americans.

I fervently hope we realize that before it's too late.

That somehow we will be able to look at each other across our ideological divides and say

-What are we even fighting for?

-I'm sick of being enemies with other people who are also just trying to do the best they can, just like I am

-What the hell are we doing? We're all Americans.

Our nation is in trouble and we're fighting each other when we should be fixing it.

In order to fix it we'll need to all realize we're fighting with the wrong people.

The right people to fight against are the ones who've bought our government and our legal system, moved all the jobs overseas along with their money and then demanded tax breaks because they're 'job creators'. They loophole around fair employment practices, responsible stewardship of the earth, paying their fair share and then they point fingers in an attempt to deflect blame from themselves.

It's the anti-guns, the pro-guns, anti-choice, pro-choice, heteros, gays, blacks, whites, men, women, atheists, Christians, and we've bought into it lock stock and barrel.

Do we need an armed insurrection? Nope, although some of us would think that that's awesome.

We've been taught that They are strong and We are weak, but in truth We are many and They be few.

If we back away- refuse to play their game- they cannot exist. They cannot exist without workers or customers. Cannot.

If we stop buying what they are selling, be it products or ideas, they are finished.

I'm afraid it's too late. Not to pull down those who need it, but too late to pull together as we need to.

We're so divided, so polarized, so quick to hate each other, really hate and despise each other when we don't really know each other at all.

What are we doing? We're all Americans.

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power."

Benito Mussolini

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