Saturday, August 13, 2005

virginia day 2

went to see my parents new house. it's nice. really nice. almost nice enough to make me want to move in... well... maybe not that nice. the house should be finished next week for them to move in.

after checking out the house, we drove out to the national museum of the civil war soldier. while not being the most exciting of places, it was pretty interesting. i'm not too sure how i feel about the civil war. people usually speak of it as this great american war that needed to be (and obviously was) won by the union. of course, this is always done in retrospect. while the emancipation of the black slaves is probably the greatest achievement of the war, what were the losses. first of all, over 620,000 american soldiers died fighting. not fighting over slavery, but fighting over a larger issue of economic and union/state rights. if these two larger issues had not existed, there would have been no civil war. while plenty did care about the immorality of slavery, not enough cared enough to make a war over it. what people cared about was money and power. the north feared that the south had an unfair economic advantage because of slavery (which would not have been as beneficial for their industry-based economics). and likewise, the south feared that the abolition of slavery would give the north an unfair economic power over the southern states. this struggle poured over into the issue of whether the state or the federal union had more authority to govern the state. the south didn't secede because they were racists and wanted to stay racist (most of the north was equally racist), they seceded because they wanted to be able to govern themselves... kinda like the colonists and england three-quarters of a century sooner.

while the war began and was initially fought over the state/union issue, it was not enough for the north to win. seeing the union struggling, lincoln reached into his back pocket and played the race card. it turned out there was enough moral rage against slavery in the union to fuel the yankees to victory. some people did give a damn.

with the war over, the slaves found freedom and replaced their chains of servitude with chains of prejudice, racism, and inequality. chains they are still struggling to loose. the south (and the whole of the nation) lost their rights to govern themselves and replaced their power of state self-government with an ever-growing federal reign of power and control. 620,000 soldiers replaced their lives with the beginnings of a new and deadly form of warfare.

the museum itself was rather nice. the best part was a section where a headset guides you through rooms with historical artifacts, dioramas, and scenes of life as a civil war soldier. at the beginning of the tour, you choose from a list of a dozen or so soldiers to guide the tour. over your headset, you hear the accounts of life as a soldier read from letters and journals of the particular soldier you choose. i selected sergeant newton, a half-black union soldier who volunteered himself in an effort to help free the slaves of the south.

in another section of the museum, a short movie is played which is supposed to depict the attitudes of americans about slavery at that time. this is done through 6 different fictional characters representing different americans. it pissed me off.

the first was some old female slave-holder from the south. she was ugly and racist.
the second was a firey preacher from the north; an abolitionist who yelled and screamed about slavery, hellfire, and brimstone.
the third was a former slave living free in the north. he loved talking about how 'massa' was so good to him and how 'massa' let him get a job to buy his freedom.
the fourth was a racist northern who only wanted to free slaves to protect his economic holdings in the north.
the fifth was a female house-slave in the south. she also loved to talk about how good 'massa' was to her and her family.
finally, the sixth was a yeoman farmer in the south. he didn't care to hold slaves, but was racist and hated slavery only because the plantation owners had more luxuries than him (though he pretended he didn't care about such 'fineries'.

here's what bugged me. first of all, the only black slaves were portrayed as being treated well by their masters and seeming to not care at all about the immorality of slavery. second, the only person portrayed as having any moral qualms against slavery was depicted as being some crazy mad-as-hell lunatic. the others against slavery only were so because of their own economic pursuits. while, i am sure that this may have been true of many (or even most) of the time, i could not help but feel that there was some larger motivation behind this movie. virginia, as is the case with much of the south, still harbors quite a bit of racism. what the depictions of this movie did was create a view of slavery that had no moral implications. in some ways, the movie seemed to be an attempt to justify and defend the racist slavery of the past. it basically says that there were no moral failings in slavery, and only crazy screaming lunatics thought otherwise.

the more i type, the more i realize that my writing abilities have gradually declined this summer. hopefully it'll pick up when school starts.

i'll be going to all of church tomorrow with my parents. i haven't done been to all three hours for a long time. hopefully it won't be too awkward. if my parents didn't know i haven't been going, i don't think it would be too difficult, but now i'll have the feeling that they're going to be thinking about me through the whole meeting and stuff. undetectable attention that i don't want. oh well. i'll just have to tough it out. on the brightside, i haven't been to church outside of utah since my mission, so i guess i'll see if it's really that different.

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting to see this post. I've been reading a biography of Harriet Tubman. It's like you say - slavery certainly wasn't the big issue at the start of the Civil War. Even though Lincoln came to be known as the Great Emancipator, he didn't have any intention at the beginning of the war to free the slaves. The primary goal was to restore the Union (and you covered the main issues).
    One thing I didn't know is that Tubman was a spy for the North during the Civil War.


Please provide a name or consistent pseudonym with your comments and avoid insults or personal attacks against anyone or any group. All anonymous comments will be immediately deleted. Other comments are subject to deletion at my discretion.