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Life150 Years Later: Gettysburg and The New Fight

150 Years Later: Gettysburg and The New Fight

As a remembrance of the bloody civil war, there are ten days of events planned in Gettysburg this year. One hundred and fifty years ago, two sides clashed in open farm fields in a rural area of Pennsylvania. Bodies stacked, brothers killed each other, friends fought, friends protected each other, men screamed, men fell silent, men were crippled, crushed, and died. The horror should never be forgotten or minimized.

Growing up in the South provides me with a different perspective of these events. Each school year involved weeks of “exploring” the civil war. As a kid I played on the old battle of Franklin stone walls which still stood in the local forest. I’m sure the building of housing tracks has destroyed these now but I still remember hiding behind the stacked stones, jumping over them, and even moving some of the stones.

But I still remember how each elementary teacher required the memorization of generals, battle movements, and key victories and defeats for the South.

Despite the surrender of the South after the end of the civil war, we still struggle as a nation. We have voter ID laws going into effect to block select individuals from voting. We have a Supreme Court ruling that section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is in need of repair – and sent it back to a dysfunctional congress to crush the need for States to get pre-approval for changing voting laws.

I agree. Section 4 needs a new map – wider – and more encompassing.

It’s a new civil war – fought in congress, local districts, and even local neighborhoods. But are you fighting this war, looking on in horror, or burying your head?

The lessons of the U.S. civil war have been lost on some and many people are unwilling to review the battle of Gettysburg to get a sense of how important it is that a democracy requires acceptance of all ideas. This does not mean everyone gets their way. It means everyone has the right to speak their opinion. And voting is the best way to have that opinion heard.

As a nation, do we stand for politicians pushing our country toward another split between equality? Do we need another Gettysburg to remind us of the sanctity of liberty (for all)?

Ultimately, ask yourself: Do we celebrate the battle of Gettysburg or remember it for lessons useful for today?

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Robert Heiny
10 years ago

I too remember living and working in the South. Memories of the War Between the States were told by students in higher ed about grandfathers fighting to the death, including in Franklin. It was humbling to hear these stories in the face of such scars, some still raw as you and your sibs took part in desegregating schools.

I agree another epic struggle is underway. This time, it’s between the forces of advancing electronic communication technology and those who use it without understanding the impact of its language on their life. I call it a transition time with unknown outcomes. Historians tell me this kind of struggle occurs about every 100 years.

Teachers are on the front line of the current struggle, or at least of a wide ranging disagreement about what "liberty" means in the face of advancing technology. And they appear poorly prepared for the increasing technical-scientific era that goes with increasingly rapid electronic advances.

Your question seems appropriate for educators, also, "are you fighting this war, looking on in horror, or burying your head?"

Thanks for the reminders.