Friday, August 18, 2006

Wunelle Visits The South

Our hotel outside of DC hands out the elaborate glossy magazine Virginia Living, the letters section of which contains this excerpted gem from one Mr. Joel Vaughan of Colorado Springs, self-described "temporary Virginia expatriate," who objected to the use of the term "Civil War" in several articles in the magazine:

I cannot imagine why a magazine dedicated to lifting up the Commonwealth of Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy, would use a Northern term to describe the war, which Virginians and Southerners call the "War Between the States." We don't think there was anything "civil" about it. Are your writers not true Virginians, or are they simply young and thus influenced by textbooks written by out-of-state scholars?

It's hard not to comment on something like this.

OK, impossible.

First, I believe the term is "War of Northern Aggression." No reason to pretend to a chivalry you do not feel.

Second, from English 101: the term "civil" in this situation does not mean "genteel." The primary definition of the word relates to a person's citizenry. War is, by definition, not courteous and mannerly.

But even bypassing the writer's tenuous grasp of language, there's another nagging point which perhaps references a nuance lost to my plodding Northern mind. The Civil War is now nearly 150 years behind us and you, Mr. Vaughan, LOST. Actually, YOU didn't lose--you weren't here yet by a long shot; the cause was lost at least a hundred years before you breathed your first. The Confederacy lives on now only in Klan rallies and in the back windows of pickup trucks next to the "Maybe Hitler Was Right" bumper stickers. I'd say get over it, but there is nothing in your life's experience to get over except a self-perpetuating inferiority complex which you hand down like the family chastity belt to your children and grandchildren. Surely there are many other noble things to celebrate about your beloved Virginia than this one bloody footnote.

My suggestion: let's move beyond this exercise in self-flagellation of identifying yourself on some indecipherable principle with somebody else's bad idea.



(P.S. I expect a good thrashing from Esbee on this matter!)


Esbee said...

You'll be disappointed then. :D

He's a grandstanding moron. I've reams of books on the Civil War. It was a huge interest of my late father, in large part due to how civil wars the world over tend to share similarities. Anyway, an awful lot of these books, even the ones by Southern scholars - and not ones who've moved to Colorado Springs?!?! - call it the Civil War, making mention of the historic name, but thereafter going with the more accepted term.

FYI: We don't call WWI The War to End All Wars anymore, either. War names change. Some aren't even called wars, but I won't go there. =D

Book rec, if you want one, and it is SUPERB.

wunelle said...

I read some years ago now all of Shelby Foote's account, and it was mesmerizing. I'm a huge fan of Lincoln--he is my favorite person in all of history, even beating out Bach by a nose hair--and I wanted to get a bit more of the context in which he shone so brightly. Foote's books read like a 3,000 page novel.

I've seen this book you recommend, but have not read. It must bring things home in a spooky way. I still get choked up at the famous Sullivan Ballou letter that featured prominently in Ken Burns's Civil War documentary. I imagine this book must have quite a number of these.

Did you inherit your dad's library?

Esbee said...

Some of it, in that my brother doesn't want it. So I'm taking some books (Ogden Nash, history), and he's taking others (birding). We haven't really started splitting things up yet. I'm not ready to do The Big Stuff.

On a please-be-happier note, how's your Mom?

wunelle said...

Little steps, thanks. She appears to be getting her swallow back, which is huge. She even had a bit of soft food yesterday for the first time in a month, and even fed a bit of it to herself left-handed. This could lead to an eventual removal of the feeding tube, which lowers the level of care required by her, all good stuff.

Otherwise she is much the same, making small bits and pieces of progress but still without language or, it seems, an awareness of what has transpired. Still, one recalibrates expectations and learns to find joy in smaller things.

Mandy said...

That reminds me of a shirt that I saw with a Confederate flag on it that said "If this shirt offends you, you need a history lesson."'s exactly because I *have* studied history that I think sporting something that signifies the acceptance of treating people like property is wrong.

My cousins who grew up in northern VA had "The War of Northern Aggression" in their textbooks - I always found that laughable/bizarre.

Glad to hear that your mom is doing better!

Jeffy said...

This is one of the many situations where folks just need to Get Over It and look forward rather than toward the past. So many of the conflicts throughout the world keep simmering because folks can't forget the insults they have suffered in the past.

I remember when the US was intervening in Bosnia and there was talk that the two sides in that conflict still held grudges over some event from the 1400's, to the point that they taught their kids to hate the others, perpetuating the conflict. Sometimes I wonder if folks just grow up knowing the hate without knowing the ancient cause.