Miles Coverdale (manos74) wrote,
Miles Coverdale

Something that's been rattling in my head since returning from VA...

I ought to pick up a copy of Tony Horwitz' Confederates in the Attic sometime. I read most of it years and years ago, while I was still working at the East Park bookstore (back in the day when there was actually a mall at East Park), and it fascinates me. We always hear from observers in other countries that Americans have no sense of history as they have in, say, Europe. But I think the cultural baggage surrounding the Civil War is something pretty close to it... only, it's the dark side of historiographic narrative and mythmaking. Not so much the "On this spot was the coronation of King Thus-and-Such XXIII," but more like "Your ancestors did my ancestors wrong seven centuries ago, and now it's payback, bitch." (Don't believe me? Go into an Alabama roadhouse and drink a toast to Abe Lincoln sometime.)

This is all a roundabout way of getting close to my point. If anyone's ever been around Northern Virginia, you've noticed that parts of it (particularly along the I-95 corridor) are way way overdeveloped, with shopping malls and housing developments and the like. These parts of Virginia (and Maryland) also include a lot of the geography of the Civil War-- for example, Fair Oaks is a place in Virginia where there was a large battle (it's where Oliver Howard lost his arm, and where Robert E. Lee's reputation got made), Fair Oaks is a shopping mall. This sort of thing makes a lot of Civil War buffs rather angry, and on the first glance, it makes a certain amount of emotional sense--this ground holds the blood of tens of thousands of Americans, and decorum calls for us to respect that ground by leaving it alone.

However. Europe has been doing this sort of thing for millennia--the statues of Antiquity were broken up for building materials during the Middle Ages, for example. My point is, time marches on and drags us all along with it, and though you can acknowledge the past, you have to live in the now. "It does not do to live in dreams and forget reality," and there's truth in that.

Back to work.
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.