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My wife and I recently visited the Gettysburg National Military Park and Amish country in Pennsylvania. I did not realize the ironic juxtaposition that is when we planned the trip. Two different kinds of quiet, two different kinds of peace, and the same otherworldliness pervaded both.
As a white man of antebellum southern ancestry, I felt the romantic stirrings of the “Lost Cause,” which was lost well before the war began. Those stirrings always pale when I reflect on what it means to be black women and men of today with antebellum southern ancestry. They were slaves. I was not. I will not pretend to imagine how that must feel. As we left the battlefields and roamed the town of Gettysburg, I was struck by yard signs in the neighborhoods which read, “This battle was fought because Black lives Matter.” [See accompanying photo] Certainly, the War Between the States was fought for a multitude of reasons with all manner of political, cultural, and economic issues; yet slavery was number one then and now. Just read the historic documents, both sides.
Gettysburg was followed by the simplicity of the Amish ethic and lifestyle still alive and well in the bucolic beauty of the Pennsylvania countryside. The Amish way is actually growing, while the established Protestant denominations slowly wither away. That, along with the growth of unattached, freestyle churches with Christian Rock and pastors in dungarees, are something to ponder. At my age, there seem to be all kinds of “lost causes,” which leads me to another reflection.
Most wars, maybe even all wars, go on-and-on well after one side has clearly lost or will certainly lose in time. Gettysburg was a turning point; yet the Civil War went on two more bloody, destructive years. Sherman’s March could have been avoided with some kind of conditional surrender or negotiated armistice. Consider any war in which our nation fought during the last century. Cultural deliriums and irrational national pride cause wars to go on longer than they need to. Remember Japan and Germany at the real ends of WWII, long before the surrenders. Think of some wars we decided to prolong unnecessarily. If I was younger, I might price one of those Amish buggies.
On the way back to Edgefield, we slowed down in bumper-to-bumper for four or five miles between Charlotte and the state line. An electric sign had warned us of an “Incident Ahead.” I always muse “what kind of incident?” Could it be a meltdown at a power plant or a protest against container ships from China or a Civil War re-enactment with live ammunition? It was a wreck. Before the traffic began to move again, we had another kind of incident beside us. A certain kind of vehicle jumped from beside us to in front of us, with a notable huff and vigor that showed the driver to be angry. It was passing a smaller certain kind of car. Both had bumper and window stickers which clearly indicated that the respective drivers would probably not be friends. You can guess what they might have said. I shall note only one: “I am heavily armed and easily pissed.”
I believe I am more afraid of the effects of the upcoming election; regardless of the outcomes, than I am of the Covid. My mantra in the early morning hours is “how long, O Lord, how long?”