While researching the upcoming sesquicentennial of the beginning of the War Between The States, I became aware that more than one Facebook page carries the congenial theme "The South lost the Civil War. Get over it."
What a great bedside manner! Don't expect these cranky Yankees to donate anything to breast cancer research. ("Your mother lost the battle. Get over it.")
I am not surprised that some Northerners yearn for closure, considering the one-sided mythology (slavery as the sole cause of the war, Lincoln as Super Emancipator, a latent Klansman in everyone possessing a drawl, etc.) they've been taught over the years.
For good or ill, it's a fact of life that the victors get to write the history books. Of course if Herodotus ("the father of history") was here, he'd probably muse, "I guess I should've made an exception for people who are congenitally incapable of pronouncing 'pecan' and who wouldn't know sweet tea if it came up and bit them on the...")
As Washington Post writer Valerie Strauss pointed out, there is a vast difference in how the Civil War is taught in the North and the South. In the North, students are taught things such as "All the rebel sharecropper kids were breast-fed mint juleps and had slaves to split their infinitives for them."
Southern teachers, on the other hand, express a grudging admiration for the Union commanders who pooled all their engineers and tacticians and ALMOST ascertained how to dispense bodily fluids from calf-high footwear. ("Bless their hearts.")
As a result of the disparity in perspectives, Northerners just don't get it. When you confront them with the long-term effects of the scorched-earth "March To The Sea," they go into denial mode. ("Are you sure that damage was done by Gen. Sherman? Most reputable historians attribute it to Charlie Sheen and a call girl...")
Yankees just don't understand why Southerners feel slighted. Americans in 2010 are supposed to feel guilty about "occupying" Iraq, apologize for dropping A-bombs on Japan, express a "tsk tsk" about the Crusades, decertify Columbus as a hero because of the treatment of indigenous peoples, and side with the Arabs in disputes that go back 4,000 years. But express regrets about the way carpetbaggers, exploitation of cheap labor, and persistent stereotypes held the South back? Fuhgeddaboutit.
The jaded Yankees who have heard enough about the Civil War think the states' rights issues raised by the Confederacy are old news. But their relevance is shown by the 20 states filing a lawsuit to block the federal power grab inherent in Obamacare.
It's hard to move beyond a controversy if you don't really grasp what the controversy was about. There is little doubt that every American needs to know more about the pivotal events of the Civil War. According to a recent survey, an alarming number of Americans believe the following "facts": 1. Secession is something an obstetrician performs. 2. The Mason-Dixon Line was a phrase for picking up chicks in bars. 3. "Reconstruction" was the title of the pilot episode of "The Bionic Woman." 4. Danny Tyree has legitimate sources for all his surveys.
There are both good Southerners and good Yankees. The sesquicentennial demands a dialogue. Both "The South Won; Get Over It" and "The South Ain't The North; Get On A Greyhound" demand a MONOLOGUE. Let's try some real communication.
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