The Battle of Gettysburg was fought from July 1st to July 3rd of 1863, and yours truly tries to make a point of reminding people of this battle each year. In part, I wish that more people learned about the outstanding characters of the people who fought then. Also, the heroism displayed in the steadfast defense of General John Buford (July 1st), the battle for Little Round Top (July 2nd), and Pickett’s Charge (July 3rd) are worthy of remembrance. Lastly, despite being limited to muzzleloaders, percussion revolvers, canons, bayonets, and sabers, Gettysburg stands as the fourth deadliest battle in American history (WWI’s Battle of Meuse-Argonne, WWII’s Battle of the Bulge, and WWII’s Battle of Okinawa rank above it in that order), and people ought to learn the causes behind that awful period of civil strife and make sure that history does not repeat itself.
Unfortunately, several parallels to the antebellum years which ignited the Civil War do presently exist. (As do parallels to the Decline of the Roman Empire and the last days of Tsarist Russia–but, that is for another article.) Here are the parallels: 1) the constant debate over an extremely divisive moral issue: slavery then and abortion now; 2) various states (New Hampshire, Arizona, Colorado, and Texas) have experienced an influx of citizens from states with the intention or unintended result of slanting a state’s politics, as 19th century America saw in Kansas and Texas; 3) the existence of secessionist movements; 4) unrest caused by the federal government either passing laws against the interests of certain states or trying to impose a uniform culture; and 5) the excessive demonization of the opposing side and the difficulty of rational argument as a result.
The last two phenomena are by far the most troubling. (The third is a necessary consequence of the last two.) Rather than the small and limited federal government imagined by the Founders, the large and all-encompassing federal leviathan creates intrusive laws affecting the daily lives of its citizens. The divisions between the cultures and interests of various states are often as great as those of the 19th century. For example, many laws popular in Massachusetts would be anathema to the citizens of Alabama. (To use states which were not involved in the Civil War, think of the difference in cultures and politics between Alaska and Hawaii.) Yet, people often employ the federal government to inflict mandates which would be popular within their own state on the other forty-nine. Many cases of interference with state laws by the federal government (though some are justified, as in securing each individual’s civil rights) and attempts to create a unified culture from Washington, D. C. instigate such resentment among the people that there is talk of secession.
Then, the current state of political discourse, dominated by memes and insults, renders most dialogue between the dissident factions ineffective. People often view the other side as irrational and insane. That is what the Left infers when it hurls the epithets racist, xenophobic, fascist, gun-loving, and Bible-thumping at the Right. On the other side, the Right refers to those on the Left as communist, radical, anti-American, and elitist. Now, reasons exist behind these epithets, but the political struggle often revolves around which epithets can be imbued with the most negativity, and name calling and suggestion have largely replaced rational argument. These days, it is accounted a real achievement if people at other sides of the political spectrum can have a polite conversation about the issues, even if both persons still think that the other is crazy.
Yet, understanding the rational basis behind the other side’s arguments is precisely what is needed for unity and peace. We need to understand these reasons before we develop two more parallels to the epoch celebrated today: the utter breakdown of political discourse and bloody civil strife.
Hope that you enjoyed the songs and beautiful artwork from LordDrakoArakis!