What Two Months of Civil War Reading Will Do To You

“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped.”

After two months of reading, and a trip to Gettysburg, Washington, D.C., and Virginia, here’s a little of what’s on my mind:

  • The Civil War
  • The battle for how history is told
  • Robert E. Lee and “honor”
  • The muddy boots of U.S. Grant at Appomattox
  • The disparity in the number of black Americans in prison today
  • The war of wills between the American South and  the Radical Republicans in the years 1868-1877
  • Two books:  Douglas A. Blackmon’s Slavery by Another Name and The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
  • My apolitical life around which political leanings are gathering
  • The revival that swept through the camps of the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac in 1863-64, following Gettysburg and Vicksburg
  • White privilege and whether David Mamet, in Race, is right about what white folk have to say about race.   Which is nothing…
  • What Christ’s ministry would have looked like in Reconstruction Louisiana
  • How we run from our lives
  • The power and fallibility of the Supreme Court
  • The process of memorializing war, heroism, the dead, and the causes that cost young men (mostly) their lives
  • Biracial life
  • The role of fathers in the lives of daughters among people of all skin colors
  • The power of sin…and evil
  • The fact that my Lenten fast has been a complete fail this year
  • The play emerging in my mind, and my love of the characters in it.
  • The fact that we are all involved in a grand “lost cause”
  • Pacifism and the accomplishments of War

How’s that for a list?  There’s more, but that’s a fair start.

There’s got to be a piece of theatre in there somewhere.

In days to come, I’ll riff on some of this stuff, keeping a loose, improv sort of thing going.  If I wait to blog until I get all my thoughts straight, I’ll never write.  But here’s the thing. There’s so much I don’t know about this stuff.  And I must say, it’s far more interesting to pursue writing in areas in which I am passionately curious, knowing that the process of the search is life-changing, conversation changing, and effort changing.

It’s been 150 years…

One Reply to “What Two Months of Civil War Reading Will Do To You”

  1. This is an endlessly fascinating and instructive (and broad) subject that I have been thinking about all my life and still find very difficult to grasp. My Father was a student of that era and a Lincoln aficionado. Growing up, our bookshelves were filled with volumes on the subject. I came of age during the Centennial years, so it comes as something of a shock to realize we have come to Sesquicentennial already!

    Of all the bullet points on your list, I find “Pacifism and the accomplishments of War” to be the most compelling. The history of humanity includes a history of violent solutions to otherwise insoluble conflicts of competing interests and intractable wills. Pacifism is a laudable ideal which has repeatedly proven to be an untenable philosophy in the face of evils even greater than violence (for some reason Bonhoeffer’s dilemma comes to mind).

    I wonder about our own resolve in the current age to fight against evil, and whether we would have the will and the resources to violently overthrow something as entrenched as slavery, or as powerful as Nazism.

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