Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


No, I’m not referring to the skies.

The war that would variously be referred to as the Lost Cause, the Late Unpleasantness, the War Between the States, and the Civil War, began 150 years ago today with the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, hard by Charleston, South Carolina. Ironically, though the attack succeeded in routing the Union forces from the fort, no Union soldiers died: One Confederate soldier perished.

It is an oversimplification to say that the war was fought solely over the issue of chattel slavery, although that issue was, at the root, perhaps the most divisive and combustible of its day. It is also, likewise, an oversimplification to say that it was fought solely over states’ rights. Regional political, societal, and economic divisions had slowly accreted to the point where conflict was inevitable; tragically, it was a bitter armed conflict. Think of it as a family feud between members of a particularly large and fractious family, a feud born of a thousand insults both remembered and imagined, and you will get a sense of how bitter it was.

That War, and its outcome, shaped the United States in which we live today. Chattel slavery is gone, although its ghostly remnants - racial discrimination, along with educational and economic differences along regional and racial lines - still remain. Numerous attempts to remedy those differences have transformed society, sometimes with positive results, other times with unintended evil consequences. But when have humans ever lived in a perfect world?

While all this business was going on, of course, my forebears were being chivvied and chased from one village to another in Russia and Poland. So I have no historical family-related dog in the hunt, except for the fact that I grew up as a Damn Yankee from New York. [Also, as a Jew, I have a natural tendency to be averse to the institution of slavery. Been there and done that, you could say.]

Over the years, I have lived in both North and South. Though I was born and raised in the North, I have no intention of ever going back there to live: today I call the South my home. Being a product of the mid-twentieth century, I have been able to love each part of our great country for its own peculiarities. It is a country in which the vigor, industry, and history of the North complements the South’s gentility and warmth. The once warring cousins, still slightly wary of one another, still have their differences - but at least they still sit at the same table, generally, and speak to one another with a civil tongue.


Kevin Kim said...

Well said.

Dax Montana said...

"Though I was born and raised in the North, I have no intention of ever going back there to live: today I call the South my home."

...That makes you a Damned Yankee!

Just Damn!

Elisson said...

...And proud of it, Dax!

Anonymous said...

.....I heard Shelby Foote one say that before the Civil War, it was grammatically correct to say, "the United States ARE"...... and afterwards, it was correct to say "The United States IS".....


Elisson said...

@Eric - I suppose that would be a Foote Note?

BobG said...

When I used to work tech support, I got a fair amount of calls from the southern states. One of the things I noticed was that they tended to be more polite than most of the callers from the Left Coast or some of the northeastern states.

Bou said...

I have family that served on both sides. On my Dad's side, my GG grandfather died due to wounds from Chickamauga and is probably buried, but not listed, in the mass grave in the historic graveyard in Atlanta. I'm going to visit it this summer. On my Mom's side, my GG grandfather signed on after listening to Lincoln speak from the back of a train. Someone in the family still has his belt buckle or gun or something. Very cool.

I took the kids to Cyclorama when we were in Atlanta last. Very very interesting. T asked me what side I would have sided with as I tried to explain all the intricacies of the war. I told him it's hard to condemn family and I wasn't there, so I don't know, but I do know it ended as it should have and it was all a crying shame.