Civil War battlefield braces for fresh conflict

gettysburg

Fourth of July is upon us again. The date falls on a Tuesday, but the entire weekend will be filled with such American traditions as swimming, barbecuing and setting off fireworks.

Meanwhile, residents of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania were bracing themselves for another shouting match between those who are pro and anti-Confederate imagery.

It has been seven score and fourteen years (for those who don’t want to do the math, that’s 154 years) since the Civil War descended upon southern-PA. Time’s passage has done little to eradicate the blister left by the devastating conflict, however.

In recent years, that blister has been re-opened, with the movement to eradicate imagery associated with the Confederacy. This includes everything from lowering flags, to petitions to re-name buildings and schools.

This year, it was reported that the radical-left group Antifa was going to up the demonstration-ante, by burning a Confederate flag and desecrating the grave-sites of rebel soldiers at Gettysburg.  Antifa – short for “anti-fascist” – ended up a no-show, at least so far. They denied involvement, blaming internet trolls for starting the reports.

Still, the threat was taken seriously enough that additional security was brought in for the weekend.  Authorities are taking no chances after last year, when over 300 protesters showed up to air their grievances at one another.

The movement to eviscerate the past has gained traction, in recent years. In 2015, South Carolina lowered the controversial Stainless Banner from outside its capitol building, where it had flown since the war. Since then, over 60 public symbols have been removed from government buildings throughout the south.

This year, the city council of Charlottesville, Virginia voted to rename two parks named after Confederate generals. Protests erupted when additional plans were made to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee.

Petitions have also been filed to rename Virginia public schools that pay homage to southern icons, such as J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church. Stuart was a Confederate cavalry officer, who served as the eyes and ears of the Army of Northern Virginia.

It is estimated the Civil War resulted in the loss of over half a million U.S. lives. And, that only accounts for armed combatants. The Union was restored, but at great cost.

It is important to remember that cost, as well as the men who figured amongst those tallies. It is part of our nation’s history – like it or not – and plays a large role in understanding modern contexts.

Sweeping them under the rug and hiding the evidence seems especially short-sighted given today’s culture of political-polarization and extremism.

The lessons of history are written so that we may not make the same mistakes as our forefathers. We should honor, not desecrate, those who gave the last full measure of devotion.

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