Civil War anniversary prompts more battle romance

By Frank Erickson

I heard a stand-up comic ask, “How come no one reenacts the Vietnam War?” More than just funny, that is a quite profound question and observation. Maybe it is because with Vietnam, “war” lost a lot of its romance. It’s hard to romanticize Vietnam. It’s just a little too raw and the wounds are still open.

But the “Civil War,” that’s a whole different story. We are at the 150-year anniversary of the “Civil War,” so let the reenactments begin. I don’t see how anyone finds it necessary to play out scenes from a “war,” an event where people’s heads are blown off, bayonets driven through a man’s torso, women raped — why celebrate something like this, even if your side did “win”?

And whoever’s idea it was to have a “war” to stop or end slavery really wasn’t thinking straight. To have a “war” to end slavery is a horrible idea. What if you “lose”? What then? Do we have “Civil War II”?

And if the South “wins” that one, what would have happened? Would we still have slavery today? Would we be saying, “Well, we tried to rid North America of slavery, but boy, those Confederate States are just so good at ‘war’ that we couldn’t ‘win’?”

“War” cannot prove if slavery is right or wrong; all it can do is prove who is better at violence, better at organized violent conflict. And that is what the romance is all about. We love the battle, especially if we believe we were morally right. We are addicted to “war.”

I read that over the next four years, the Smithsonian Magazine will “examine the major battles, pivotal moments…” Would we be doing this if the South had “won”?

On a somewhat different note, the U.S. government is “talking” to the wives of Osama bin Laden. It would only seem fair that those who believe the U.S. attack on Iraq was a criminal act should have access to interrogating the wives of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush. I have a feeling Cheney’s wife knows more than Laura Bush.

Just the thought of these untouchables getting interrogated…never in a million years. There are certain people so high up and protected that no matter what they or their husbands do, they are safe. U.S. presidents and their wives are on the top of this untouchable list.

Frank Erickson lives in Minneapolis.