Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Blue Gray Game

I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania and, like many young boys across this country I spent a number of childhood years completely absorbed by the history of The Civil War. I would get lost in this oversized book my folks got me one Christmas called ‘The Civil War.’ It had paintings, maps, journals, essays, strategies, death tolls, battle details and all manner of data that kept me mesmerized for hours and days. On the occasional ‘sick day’ from school I would line up my little plastic blue and gray soldiers on the sheets of my bed and re-enact a skirmish. I suppose in my subconscious I may have been on the side of The North given the geography of my birth. But I don’t recall that being a real issue. Gettysburg was located about 90 miles to the west of my hometown and so it was that we’d board school buses and spend a day touring the awesome and now-serene battlefields. (If you have yet to set foot on that hallowed ground I would heartily recommend the experience; it is unlike any other.) I have returned there many times in my adulthood responding to some spiritual call. Soon I reached an age, however, when these sad and monumental events no longer held my fascination. Girls, sports and music made their presence known and demanded my attention.
After a late-teens/early 20’s sojourn in the East Village trying fruitlessly to become the next Bob Dylan I made the wise decision to move to Tennessee and it is here that I have remained for 31 years. Tennessee, of course, is not without it’s massive tracts of sacred ground. Shiloh, Missionary Ridge, Nashville, Franklin, Lookout Mountain – these are powerful names in the Civil War lexicon. And I have paid my respects to most of these sites as well. But I’ve noticed something not so inconspicuous here in the heart of the south – lots of these folks are still pissed off about the results of that war settled so long ago. In the 30 years I have been a citizen of this great state – a place I dearly love - not a month has transpired when I have not had someone make a snide remark about me being a Yankee. At first I thought it was a joke until I encountered a few boys who were dead-ass serious about it. They held me in high disdain and distrust for one reason – I was born in ‘The North.’ Then I began hearing slogans like ‘The South’s Gonna Do It Again’ and seeing Confederate flags flying from pickups and it started to sink in – that war was so much more part of the culture of The South than The North. These boys, at least four generations removed from the atrocities, had still not found any peace in the peace signed at Appomattox. With all due respect – are you kidding me?
Today I attended an NFL game at LP Field in Nashville and watched The Tennessee Titans handily defeat The Pittsburgh Steelers in a very significant game. Steelers’ fans are most devoted and there was lots of gold and black in the stadium. On my way to the car I saw and heard a brief exchange that went like this: Male Steelers’s Fan dressed in Pittsburgh paraphernalia: ‘Don’t worry, we’ll be back.’ Female Titans’ fan dressed in complete deer-hunting camouflage (identical to her husband:) ‘Get yer Yankee ass back up north and don’t ever come back here again, you dickhead.’
There are over 1,000,000 graves scattered across a dozen states holding the remains of the casualties of Our Saddest Moment. 143 years have passed since it was declared over. It is interesting to note that Charles Darwin published his initial version of ‘On the Origin of the Species’ in November 1859, 16 months before the Confederate guns fired on a Union installation at Fort Sumter – the official start of the Civil War. I wish he could have been at the game today.


Blogger cook eat FRET said...

i suppose the good news is that i've found your blog

the bad being that you've been at it awhile and the thought of going back and reading it all is as exruciating as not...

January 1, 2009 at 11:14 PM  
Blogger Thom Schuyler said...

i wouldn't bother - there are much better things to do.

January 4, 2009 at 10:37 PM  

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