Some of the responses to yesterday’s blog took me by surprise. Startled me even. Who do I think I am to write about the Civil War? Which, just so you know, isn’t what the piece is about at all. Let me tell you, I’m an American. I was born and raised in Massachusetts. I am not a Massachusettsian, because no one is. I grew up with Americans. I never, until I moved to the south, heard anyone referred to as a Northerner – and Yankees are an evil baseball team from New York, not a derogatory way to describe other Americans.
I am first-generation American. Does that make me less American? Some of the comments yesterday would imply that, yes, that is the case. Well, that’s bullshit. My dad, uncles, and brother served in the United States military. When my family came here we embraced our new home. We worked to improve it. Everyone in my family is – and always has been – politically active. My mother has worked for someone’s presidential campaign all the way back to John Kennedy (I haven’t always agreed with her choices, but that’s another essay). My mother’s mother was a “Rosie-the-Riveter.” My father’s mother fed her entire neighborhood in South Boston during the depression, because my grandfather brought his trade of grading wool with him from the hills of Kilkenny and was able to keep his job throughout the depression. He was considered a skilled artisan. So, yeah, we’re Americans.
One comment suggested that because my family wasn’t here during the Civil War I have no authority – or right – to talk about the Civil War. Well, guess what, I wasn’t in Greece in 431 BC, but, having read Thucydides (in translation) and studying under people, some of the best minds in the world, who have made knowing about that war their life’s work, I feel confident that I can speak with some authority on the subject. The same applies to Arthurian legend. I wasn’t there, but I feel qualified to talk about it; not because I have seen Monty Python’s Holy Grail – but because I have studied under experts at one of the best schools in the world, The College of William and Mary. I earned Bachelors’ degrees in English and History there. I earned two degrees in five years – so I can assure you that my “normally superior intellect” is not diminished when discussing history. Thank you. I use the term earned deliberately, because I worked for those degrees, I studied, I read history, first hand accounts. I listened when those who already knew spoke; I respected their position. I gained authority.
Someone suggested, “Unfortunately, she like so many “Northerners” has no appreciation for our history or the culture.” She being me. Really? Really, really? Our history? Our culture? Hello? We are all Americans. I cannot get beyond the depth of the bias in that comment. Both the North and the South engaged in the Civil War. Both sides. If we cannot accept that we are one culture with many nuances, then there is nothing left to discuss.
So, from my position of educated authority:
- The Civil War ended on April 9, 1865 – one-hundred-forty-eight years ago. Where it began, is a subject of debate. The shot at Sumter? The average history buff will jump on that train. But what about the Compromise of 1850? What about Bloody Kansas? Or the Kansas/Nebraska Act of 1853? All of these issues were based in the notion of States Rights, yes they were – a state’s right to own slaves. Period, end of conversation. Thank you, for your time, and do have a nice day. If you are still fighting this war, please feel free, at any time to join the 21st century.
- There is no factual basis in history to call the American Civil War “The War of Northern Aggression.” I would refer you to the caning of Senator Charles Sumner, of Massachusetts by Preston Brooks, Representative of South Carolina. I would also remind you that the shot fired on April 12, 1861 was fired by a Confederate soldier. The Confederacy was the aggressor. Period, thank you, have a nice day.
- To compare The War Between the States to Ireland’s English problem is a gross miscarriage, a willful ignorance of facts. Really? Ireland is, and always has been, a sovereign nation. England simply decided that it owned Ireland and it had the superior fire power to back that up. The English slaughtered the Irish. Laws were enacted which denied the Irish the right to own the land upon which they had lived for thousands of years. It was against the law for the Irish to speak their native language, practice their religion, even to be educated. The infamous “Potato Famine” is a myth. Indeed, the potatoes developed a blight, but enough potatoes grew to feed the Irish population. But the British, oh the British… The Irish paid their rents in potatoes—rents for land that was rightfully theirs. There were not enough potatoes to both pay rent and eat after the blight, but the British demanded their rent. Those who did not pay were beaten and turned out of their homes. Either way, the poor Irish family would be decimated To compare these two histories, to say they are in any way the same, is disgusting. It is a blasphemy to Irish heritage. The Confederates in the American Civil War were not a people invaded, subjugated without a choice. They were not a people denied their inalienable rights. I will get off that hobby-horse now.
Finally, I would suggest that if you did not see the humor in my previous post, then perhaps you are not my reader and you should find other blogs to follow. The majority of my posts are snarky, sarcastic, Bombeckian. And if you don’t get that it’s your loss. This blog has over 1000 regular readers, if I lose a few here, I’m ok with that because for me the battle does not go on – other than in hyperbole and stereotypical characters in stories… We have enough to fight for today.