Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Clarification on the Confederacy

You just never know what is going to touch people off. I did a perfectly charming post on Saturday, pointing out that a bunch of people were gathering in nearby Higginsville to celebrate an oppressive, human-rights-violating group of anti-American terrorists, and, the next thing you know, I'm losing one of my favorite commenters (Travelingal, honey, I'm sorry, I miss you, let's not give up on what we had, it was special, we can work this out, don't leave me, please . . .), another commenter is giving me the silent treatment, and Anonymous Me is telling me I need to make some apologies . . .

Well, I'm not going to apologize, but I'll agree I should have been a little more clear in what I was trying to say.

Were the Confederates "terrorist attackers of the United States"? Pretty much, yeah. They launched an unprovoked attack on Fort Sumter, and then launched a series of attacks on civilian targets, using guerilla tactics. Indeed, the Confederates pretty much approved of such behavior when it passed the Partisan Ranger Act in 1862, fueling the bitter irregular conflict that festers to this day in the Kansas City region.

Let's be clear here. I'm not saying that the Union side was angelic. But the Confederates were terrorist attackers of the United States.

Now, is it fair to say that the reenactors and history buffs that go to things like the event this past Saturday in Higginsville are supporters of the Confederacy? Probably not. So, maybe I do owe an apology on that point, and, if so, I hereby offer it (something about discussing that period draws out a certain formality of expression).

I doubt that any of them support slavery, and few of them would really choose to live in the old South, at least without being the owner or belle of a magnificent and wealthy plantation.

Instead, most of them are doing something pretty cool. They're bringing reality to the fight against the old rule that "history is written by the victors". By tradition, the Union should have dehumanized the South and obliterated its culture and values. As history shows us through other wars, the Hun and the Jap and the Gook are subhuman, evil beings, whose death and destruction are worthy of celebration. Kind of like the "haji's" of today.

By reenacting the daily life of Confederates, the participants are standing up for the radical proposition that enemies are people, too. Those blood-thirsty, amoral drones who advocate making the hostile parts of the Middle East into a parking lot would benefit from spending some time around reenactors - people who choose to inhabit the world of the losing side of history, and reclaim the humanity of those we might prefer to revile. Yes, by all means, the Confederates were "terrorist attackers of the United States".

But, if things had gone slightly differently at a few crucial turns, we might be citizens of the CSA, and we might be deploring the Yankee terrorists.

Remember that when you read hate-filled crap from the yellow elephants encouraging us to forget that only the foolish and deluded believe that the other side is truly evil.


Anonymous Andrea said...

Wow I have to quit reading your blog through a feed reader. I miss out on all the fun in the comments!

7/18/2006 11:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous Me said...

"Were the Confederates "terrorist attackers of the United States"? Pretty much, yeah."

You must have a very different definition of "terrorist" than I. Did irregular units harrass Union supply lines, bridges, and railroads. Of course. Those were, of course, MILITARY targets. Union troops did the same (re: Sherman's march). Were there atrocities? Yes, in warfare, unfortunately, there always are. There were union atrocities as well.

The difference? Terrorists DELIBERATELY TARGET NON-COMBATANTS, the more innocent the better, in order to draw attention to their cause. Their attacks have little to no military impact, but hope to make a political impact by blackmailing governments. They're no different than kidnappers stealing a baby for ransom. Thugs and cowards (yes, that's you, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc. Thugs and cowards).

Most of the middle east's terrorists don't really care about the cause anymore - they're just thugs. In fact, many Arab states support the terrorists in order to keep "the cause" going; it serves as a diversion to the masses so that the leadership can continue to rob them. They have no interest in a peace, even if it came in terms favorable to them. What they want is continued distraction.

The US civil war was quite different. When confederate forces fired upon Ft. Sumter, they were firing on a MILITARY target, and after a warning for the fort to surrender and offering passage for its garrison if they did so. Criminals like Quantrill's thugs excepted (and the article you cited pointed out the problems groups like Quantrill's caused, NOT, as you implied, how the Confederacy embraced them), irregulars generally attacked targets related to Union military capability. Little different than US bombers targeting bridges, railways, and factories in Europe during WWII.

What you really displayed, in comparing the Confederacy to terrorists, is an amazing misunderstanding of Civil War history, and an even more amazing smear of men and women who give life to dry history texts and help others understand the past.

A backhanded "I should have been a little more clear" isn't good enough. And the "hate-filled crap" is by no means limited to the other side; this little episode displays that "your side" regularly engages in the smear as well. This is not your first post to do so, and probably won't be your last.

But you're usually more intelligent about it. Shame on you.

7/19/2006 9:00 AM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

And his pleadings fell upon me like the sweet scent of purple hyacinths .. I could no longer turn away.

I think it's a little difficult to get inside the mindset of the reenactor unless you've been one. Actually, I have Confederates in the Attic but must confess to never finishing it. However, I have lived it to some extent, having spent nights around the campfire with the CSA artillery unit my husband belonged to. Nearly all of them were learned historians, as meticulous as possible in recreating the particular "battles" they produced, but none that I knew starving themselves to authentic gauntness. All of them loved the camera and many were in some of the great civil war movies that came out not long ago.

I buried him with a copy of Gods and Generals, inscribed with a handwritten birthday greeting from the author, Jeff Shaara... a present I never got to give him.

This sounds like some kind of soap opera kind of thing..which I don't intend it to be and don't want nor expect any apologies or condolances. I'm just trying to explain why I was upset. Over the course of many years, I met many reenactors and saw many reenactments (one really spectacular one of nearly 20,000 reenactors.) Reenacting is a hobby. Many units had both blue and grey uniforms ready to go in case there weren't enough actors from one side or the other to carry out the play at some of the smaller events. They just had a pile of fun and truly enjoyed what they were doing. Many of them participated in other historical organizations or events. My husband, for example, was an active member of the Kansas City Historic Trails Association.

I doubt you would find even one reenactor, union or confederate, who would consider the actual confederate soldier a terrorist unless you would consider anyone who engages in battle during wartime a terrorist. Of course I agree with Anonymous me in that regard. Pray we never have to meet the machete swinging Islamofacist REAL TERRORISTS who would praise Allah while beheading innocent civilians.

Peace, my friend.

7/19/2006 10:50 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Anonymous me - you need to read a little more. The irregulars and "rangers" did a whole bunch of nasty things, including targeting civilians, and then the Confederacy legitimized their behavior by passing the Partisan Ranger Act. You're simply wrong when you deny that the confederacy committed acts of terrorism.

But, my mistake was in mixing together the sins of some confederates and the motivation of the reenactors. There aren't any reenactors I have ever seen or heard of who recreate the character of a cowardly ranger murdering a family in their sleep for supporting the wrong side.

Yes, Travelingal, I owe you and your husband's memory, and the rest of the reenactors, a straight-out apology. You might not want it, but I think I owe it to you, and intellectual honesty requires it. My post mixed two things together - the behavior of a small percentage of partisans and the ideals of those who recreate the world of their more noble brethren.

It's kind of like claiming that the VFW exists to honor My Lai.

On a more personal note, your story of the ungiven gift is incredibly touching. While he never received the Shaara book, and I'm sure he would have enjoyed it, he most certainly received the joy of living in a loving relationship that would bring such a thoughtful gift. The book was just a book. The love was more important.

Thanks for coming back. I'm learning from you.

7/19/2006 9:37 PM  
Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

I'm very glad to see Travelingal back. I'd have missed you.

I guess the part that I don't understand is why ANY war is celebrated and re-enacted.

Not saying that the people who do so are "bad people". I just don't get the motivation.

You don't see people re-enacting WWII (with "Allies" and "Axis" members parking their RV's next to each other and cooking burgers on the same grill...Nazi infrantry and RAF Pilots throwing back a few brewskies together, celebrating "the good times").

You don't see Korean War "re-enactors" crawling out of underground tunnels to roast weenies and marsh-mellows in some sort of post-war revelrie.

Vietnam veteran and Viet Cong survivor playing "cowboy and Indian" with toy weapons and fake blood then having dinner together.

Will we someday see Irag War Re-Enactors searching for WMD, not finding any, blowing the shit out of everything in site and then laughing it up with some pretend Iraqi soldiers over a BBQ grill in Florida?

War is not a game. It's nothing to be celebrated. It is the complete breakdown of every other civilized option (or at least should be).

Ordinary, everyday people die in meat grinders while "People In Power" argue, bicker and try to prove who has the biggest dick.

How is that a thing to "party" and "dress up" over?

I don't get it.

7/19/2006 9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous Me said...

No Dan, you need to read a bit more. Even the site you referenced noted a difference between "partisan rangers," irregular forces attacking supply lines and communication, and thugs like Quantrill. The Confederacy embraced the former (no surprise), but wanted nothing to do with the latter. The latter were thieves and thugs, operating ON THEIR OWN in the name of the confederacy, but without sanction. Some units did both, and as the site noted, without much discipline from any central command. I drew that distinction; you don't understand it.

Understand, I'm no fan of the confederate cause, of course. But when REAL terrorism is perhaps the greatest threat to peace today, it's important to understand what it is, and what it is not. And YOU drew the broad brush, referring to the attack on Ft. Sumner as a terrorist act (clearly, it's not). YOU in effect labeled the entire confederate cause terrorism, I didn't.

The distinction is important today. There is a vast difference between Islamic states and followers of Islam, the vast majority of whom may well have goals in the world quite different than ours, but don't target the helpless to get there, and the rightly labeled Islamofascists, who will use any means (beheading hostages on TV) to accomplish their repressive goals.

It's an important distinction. And one you apparantly don't understand.

And XO, though I don't re-enact, I can see the appeal. You're not a history buff, it appears. The civil war is the single most important historical event in this nation's history; it shaped the country we became, and still does, in many ways. It was the largest war in the world in the 19th century. It was also the first modern war, with the beginnings of modern weapons and mass armies, and often commanded by generals who did not understand their implications. It became a tactician's study; the battles are still studied all over the world, and especially at West Point. Gettysburg alone contains several pivotal moments (what if the 20th Maine had not held Little Round Top? - How might this nation have been different?).
It's no surprise that it remains fascinating, and that it is reenacted. It is a major part of what we are.

7/20/2006 9:02 AM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

XO..this will blow your mind. Why you may even have a breakdown...lol

Seriously, I knew nothing about this..just googled


Dan, thanks. I'll be back to do battle with ya .. lol

7/20/2006 10:24 AM  

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