Today marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, prompted by shots fired at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, just off the coast of Charleston. It’s eerie to think that one act instigated the suffering of so many, costing millions of American lives. Yet it also initiated the end of slavery, so how you see that war might reflect how you feel about those shots.
Having ancestors on both sides of the Civil War puts me in a position to view its costs more personally. Blood shed, lost limbs and lives, totaling millions, but for the emancipation of an entire race of people. I keep wondering why we needed a war to rise above that shameful institution of human bondage.
Many, probably most, of the lives lost in the Civil War were not wealthy land owners nor slave holders. They were acting out of the call from their states. How familiar this seems as so many local men and women who joined the National Guard to protect local interests, now find themselves in a Middle Eastern Desert. Their country called and right or wrong, they proudly and honorably serve it.
Shirley MacLaine – the actress, dancer, activist, and author – says war is ridiculous and that the aliens are trying to communicate this to us. She has a penchant for being ‘out there’ in terms of spirituality, yet her words resonate. What on earth could she hope to gain by making up outlandish theories and presenting them in her manner of ‘believe or not – I don’t care – I’m only the messenger’.
As our government officials gather to pound out a new budget – warning of cuts to all social programs – I wonder how they find so much money for bombs and nuclear warheads. It seems ironic that as we see the cost in human lives, we can only relate to it in terms of dollars, especially as we look back on the previous wars and ponder how the resolutions could have been achieved some other way.
Perhaps as we reflect on what happened 150 years ago, we can also reflect on how we can use that knowledge to garner peace and to hammer out agreements using our minds and our words. Maybe we need a few writers at the table to provide the phrasing in a poverty of words.
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