Paying Respects at Andersonville

Of all the Civil War prisons, Andersonville was the worst.

Recently Dear Husband and I took a trip that we are calling “Autumn Back East 2021”. Our goal was to visit friends and family, and I wanted to show DH what autumn leaves really look like in a region that isn’t primarily covered in evergreen trees, and introduce him to our nation’s capital.

We flew to Atlanta, picked up a rental car, then drove to Alabama, North Florida, Georgia, Eastern Tennessee, Western North Carolina, and then drove to Washington DC by way of Virginia. Then we flew back home.

It was an amazing trip which lasted 15 days, and since I’m now only blogging every other day, if I gave you a day to day account like I have on trips past, it would take a month, and you’d be heartily sick of the subject before we even left peach country. So I’ve decided to focus on highlights, which I’ll do my best to keep in order. You can find the first post in the series here, and a link to the next post in the series, when it comes available, below.

After a rather abrupt and, in my opinion, overly-religious welcome to Georgia at the state line, we headed into cotton and peanut country. We had a rapid COVID test scheduled for later in the day, prior to visiting my sister, so we decided not to stop at the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site, although it’s something I’ve been meaning to do for years.

But Andersonville National Historic Site in Georgia is the only part of our National Park system that serves as a memorial to all American prisoners of war. Since we were going to be in the general vicinity, we thought it was fitting to stop in and pay our respects. I’d been there before, but this was Dear Husband’s first Civil War site.

There are three parts to this site. The National Prisoner of War Museum, the Prison Site itself, and the Andersonville National Cemetery. We only had time to see the first two, but I highly recommend them.

The museum has displays that describe not only Andersonville, but also the conditions that Americans have endured as war prisoners throughout history. So many wars. So much inhumanity. So many sacrifices. Prison camps, by definition, are horrific places.

Andersonville, during its 14-month operation, can only be described as hell on earth. During that time, 13,000 Union soldiers died and were buried in trenches in what is now the National Cemetery. Many died of disease or starvation. Some died by crossing the “Dead Line” which was a flimsy fence that was 19 feet inside the stockade walls. If you crossed it, you were shot by a guard. Others died while trying to escape, many of those due to tunnel cave ins.

Neither the North nor the South were prepared for the number of prisoners they would need to house during this war. Because of this, prison conditions on both sides were overcrowded, and there was a deficit of food, shelter, clothing and medical supplies. According to the National Park brochure, you were more likely to die as a prisoner of war in this conflict than as a soldier in combat. Fifteen percent of all Union POWs and twelve percent of all Confederate POWs died. There were 150 Civil War prisons scattered across the country, but Andersonville had the worst reputation of them all.

Originally, Andersonville was a 16 ½ acre prison pen that was supposed to hold 10,000 Union prisoners. It had a swampy creek running through its center. That creek was supposed to supply the men with drinking water, and at the other end, where it flowed out of the pen, it was used as a latrine, called “The Sinks”. The waste was supposed to flow out of the compound, leaving the water upstream fresh, but the stream quickly proved inadequate to the task, the waste backed up, and the water source became a disease-laden muddy trench.

Both North and South were expecting to rely on prisoner exchange to reduce the number of incarcerated men, but when the South absolutely refused to give up Black Union soldiers, the negotiations broke down. Andersonville quickly swelled to 32,000 men struggling to survive. No shelter was provided. Prisoners had to make do with makeshift lean-to’s of sticks and scraps of clothing, which were called shebangs. Lice, fleas and vermin were everywhere. It was said that you could smell the stench of Andersonville 10 miles away. Georgians were not pleased. But that didn’t stop some of them from coming to gawk at the fetid sea of misery, chaos and death from the sentry towers.

African Americans, of course, had it even worse than the Whites. If they hadn’t already been killed by their Confederate captors before reaching prison, or returned to slavery, or sold into slavery for the first time, then they were dumped in with the rest of the prisoners. But they didn’t even receive the substandard, grizzly medical treatment that the Whites got. They were also forced to work hard labor. They were more likely to be put into the stocks and/or whipped than the White prisoners were. Of the 100 African Americans at Andersonville, 33 percent died, rather than the 15 percent death rate of the Whites.

Even making it to the end of the war did not ensure that you’d survive Andersonville. Hundreds died trying to make it back home. Others died later of the diseases they got from the vermin and putrid water of Andersonville. These men are scattered everywhere, but their loss is just as heartbreaking as the loss of those who lie buried in trenches in the cemetery just north of the prison. It’s one of this nation’s worst tragedies.

An Andersonville Survivor

So what do you see when you visit Andersonville today? Mostly, you see a beautiful rolling field of expertly maintained grass. It actually looks rather peaceful, if you don’t know the history. It would make a great place for a picnic, or a golf course, except that that would be disrespectful.

The National Park Service does a great job of making the site come alive, though. There’s a narrative that you can listen to as you drive around to the various points of interest. There are also a lot of informational signs. You can see the many monuments that many Northern states erected in memory of their fallen soldiers. You can visit the two parts of the stockade walls that have been reconstructed. You can see remnants of the star fort just to the Southwest, complete with rusty cannons. There are poles marking where the rest of the walls used to be, and shorter poles indicating the dead line which you could not cross.

The most substantial edifice is the building that surrounds Providence Spring, which was a spring that miraculously appeared just north of the creek, 6 months after the prison opened in 1864. That spring provided what little clean water the prisoners were able to obtain. Water still runs there, even though the creek has long since dried up. Throughout the fields, you can see short concrete posts that mark where the prisoners desperately tried to dig wells to get even more water.

So you stand on this now beautiful site, taking in the green rolling hillside, listening to the birds chirp, but you can imagine a time when it was mud and filth and desperation and disease. The ground practically vibrates with trauma. You can all but hear the moaning and the crying and the praying and the dying. You feel the ghosts of a war that never should have happened. And you are reminded of how atrocious people can be to one another.

Many people I know in the South try really hard to romanticize the Civil War. They try to say it was about states rights, but even the documents left behind by their own politicians and generals come right out and admit this was a war about slavery, pure and simple. They wanted the free labor for their farmland, and they didn’t care about the abominable suffering and horrifying injustice this caused. They decided that their stance, on the wrong side of history, was the right one, and they took up arms to defend it.

The Insurrectionists of January 6th of this year were equally wrong-headed, and are equally confused that their violent actions are considered crimes. If you don’t like the majority stance in a democracy, you don’t get to just up and steal a chunk of the country. That’s treasonous. And you certainly don’t get to storm our nation’s capitol and vandalize it and try to lynch people who disagree with you.

On that January 6th day, I’m sure all the ghosts of Andersonville rose up in horror and protest. I’m sure they wished they could make those insurrectionist idiots see the errors of their ways. And I’m sure the ghosts of their captors were cheering those same idiots on.

Will we ever learn?

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Mary Eliza Mahoney

What an amazing woman!

During a recent rainy, late night commute home, I found myself on a deserted street. It felt like I was the only person alive (or at least awake) on earth. I looked up just as a digital billboard, perched high above a used car lot, was changing images. Suddenly, looking down at me as a beautiful yet somber face of a woman in an old-fashioned nursing outfit. The caption said, “Mary Eliza Mahoney, First African American nurse.”

I was intrigued. This was the first I’d heard of this amazing woman. Her presence made me feel less alone on that cold, wet road. I still had a few miles to go to get home, but the whole drive I kept repeating Mary Eliza Mahoney, so I’d remember her name long enough to Google her. It’s a good name. A substantial name.

When I got to my nice, warm, dry house, I changed into my fuzzy jammies (“Mary Eliza Mahoney, Mary Eliza Mahoney…”) sat in my recliner with my snuggly dachshund ensconced on my lap, and I Googled. The first thing I learned was that there are very few images of Ms. Mahoney. The one below is the same one that was on the billboard. She looks so young, and so determined. Given that she was born in 1845, though, limited photographs are par for the course.

She was born near Boston to freed slaves who had come up from North Carolina before the American Civil War, hoping to live somewhere with less racial discrimination. I suspect they instilled that strong desire in their child. She attended one of the first integrated schools in the country, through the 4th grade. She was 15 when the civil war started, and she saw the need and the value of nurses during that conflict. She decided at age 18 that she wanted to be a nurse. The war didn’t end until she was 20 years old. That part of history must have been extremely formative for her.

Her pursuit of nursing didn’t take a straight line, but you can tell that it always remained her goal. At 18, She got a job at the New England Hospital for Women and Children, and worked there for 15 years. As a janitor. And a cook. And a maid. And a washerwoman. She worked 16 hours a day.

Finally she was able to become a nurse’s aide. Then, at the age of 33, she was admitted to a new program, the first in the nation, that that very hospital had started to train nurses. Although it was easier for African American women to pursue higher education in the North than in the South, it was still rare. It is expected that she was admitted to the program due to her 15 year relationship with that institution.

The 16 month program was grueling to say the least. She attended 12 hours of lectures a day, and got another 4 hours of hands on experience. Then she became a private duty nurse, in charge of six patients on the various wards. She got 1 to 4 dollars a week for that, a portion of which was returned to the hospital for tuition. Of the 44 women that started the program, they began dropping by the wayside one by one, including Mary’s sister. In the end, there were 4 graduates, and Mary was one of those. In 1879, she became the first African American registered nurse in the nation. I hope her parents lived to see that.

She decided to avoid public nursing, because there was a lot of discrimination there. Oddly enough, she preferred being a private nurse in the homes of wealthy white families. She developed an excellent reputation for being efficient, patient, and caring. At the time, many African American nurses were treated as though they were servants rather than trained professionals, so she tended to avoid the staff, eating alone in the kitchen.

As a successful nurse, her goal then became to abolish discrimination in nursing, and toward that end, she co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses in 1909, and was the keynote speaker at their first convention. The association’s goal was to support and recognize the accomplishments of outstanding nurses, particularly those who were minorities.

After decades as a private nurse, she became the director of the Howard Orphanage Asylum for black children, and remained so until 1912. She retired from nursing after 40 years, which is even more impressive when you consider that she didn’t graduate from nursing school until she was in her early 30’s.

In her retirement, she focused on women’s suffrage, and in 1920, she was one of the first women to register to vote in Boston. She died of breast cancer, after a 3 year battle, when she was 80. That was in 1926, a little over a year before my mother was born. (Ma would have turned 94 today. Waving skyward.)

Mary Eliza Mahoney was obviously a determined, goal-oriented, hard-working, strong, intelligent woman. I would have been proud to know her. There may not be many photographs of her, but she certainly has made her mark.

Sources for this article:

https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/mary-mahoney

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Eliza_Mahoney

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Civil Trade War

So now Trump thinks Canada is a security risk? Oh, come on. Those people won’t even jaywalk at an intersection. Seriously. There could be no cars for miles, and they’d still patiently wait for the crossing signal.

Trump imposing tariffs on Mexico, Canada, and the European Union is like walking up to your three best friends in the school yard and punching them each in the throat. Just ‘cuz.

As if we weren’t already convinced that this man is an idiot, he now decides to do something that has absolutely no upside, even for him. But oh, yeah, it certainly has taken our focus off of Russia, hasn’t it? He does like to stir shit up.

Smoke and mirrors. It’s all smoke and mirrors. The next election can’t come fast enough.

For some reason, though, a lot of people don’t quite get (yet) what a global pissing match Trump has just set off. So let’s scale it down a bit for easier comprehension.

Let’s say the Governor of Maine doesn’t like the Governor of Georgia. So Maine decides to impose a tariff on all peaches. This means that it gets a lot more expensive for Georgia to get their peaches to consumers in Maine. This causes the Governor of Georgia’s head to explode, and he says, “Fine! We are now putting a tariff on Lobsters! Take that!”

Well, messing with Lobsters in Maine is like touching the third rail. This cannot be borne! So Maine says, okay, now we’re going to put a tariff on airplanes. (You may not know this, but Georgia’s top export is airplanes.)

But hold on. Airplanes are also the top export in California, Arizona, Washington, Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina, Florida, and Connecticut. So they all sit up tensely and blink, too. What’s going to happen next? They all start looking around to see how they can hurt other states who might hurt them. Everyone is poised for battle.

That’s really how the civil war started. Only back then, the commodity was slaves. Not only won’t we buy your slaves, but you can’t have them either. And before we knew it, hundreds of thousands of Americans were dead.

This trade war? Worst idea ever. Thanks, Trump. Way to go.

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Peace Day

If I were getting a masters degree in world history, my thesis would be an attempt to answer this question: Was there even one day in the recorded history of mankind when no one on the planet was at war? I’ve honestly wondered that my entire life.

Of course, you’d have to create a firm definition of war first. For example, America may have tried to call the war in Vietnam a police action, but I’m sure those covered in napalm were pretty convinced they were at war. Perhaps “non-peace” would be a better term.

By that definition, it would be easy to eliminate huge swaths of time. World Wars I and II. Civil wars. Revolutions. Invasions. Pogroms. Genocide. Hostile occupations. Coups d’etat.

After that, you’d be left with a patchwork quilt of time frames, and you’d have to look at each country and/or culture’s individual history. I’d suggest you go with the big and/or influential countries first. America. Russia. China. England. They are the troublemakers. They’d eliminate a bunch of dates on your calendar. (Of course, reconciling the various calendars so that we’re sure we’re discussing the same day would be an additional challenge.)

Then perhaps go to the more tribal areas of the globe. Whenever you create a scenario that is “us” vs. “them”, you are sure to have conflict. Should we count terrorist activity? If people are getting killed, I’d say yes.

I guess my point is, humans in general are a violent species. I want there to be a day that we can all look to and say, “See? We are capable of peace.” Just one day. I need to know that day exists to give us all hope that it’s really achievable.

I hate to say it, but I doubt we’ll find it.

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Rooting for the Home Team

When I was 10 years old I moved from my waspy, upper middle class New England house and wound up living in a tent in the rural South. It was quite the culture shock. But the biggest shock of all was finding myself in a public school where only 1 percent of the students looked anything like me. This was something I had never experienced before, and I got beaten up quite often as a result.

I also had a great deal of trouble adjusting to the backward Florida school system. It was several years before I started learning anything that I hadn’t previously been taught in Connecticut, and when they tested me and determined that I was reading at college level at the age of 10, they weren’t nearly as impressed by that as they were that I was voluntarily reading anything at all.

At one point my mother asked me if I even had textbooks. I told her yes, but that I did my homework in class, as it only took a minute. No reason to lug those books home.

Once, my teacher was talking about the Civil War and she asked whose side everyone would be on. “This is easy,” I thought. “Union, of course.” But I was stunned to discover that all the children of color around me chose the Southern side.

I was normally quiet and kept to myself to avoid the inevitable beating. But this… I couldn’t handle it. “Are you guys crazy??? You’re supporting the side of slavery!” None of them changed their minds, however. I was speechless.

As an adult looking back, it’s a bit more understandable. In that school system, they were taught virtually nothing about history or human rights. Most of them were so poor that they’d probably never stepped foot outside the backwater town in which we lived. They were simply rooting for the home team, as if this were a football game. I have no doubt that every one of them came to their senses when they entered the real world.

It wouldn’t be the last time I felt like the only voice of reason in an insane situation. I feel that way now when I see people supporting Donald Trump or denying global warming. Forgive them. They know not what they do.

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[Image credit: theblaze.com]

The Tragedy That Is Damascus, Syria

Damascus, Syria is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site because it is the world’s oldest continuously-inhabited city. In the past 10,000 years, it has seen the rise and fall of Aramaeans, Assyrians, Persians, Seleucids, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans. It is a city full of history and culture. Much of its rich archeology remains buried beneath modern structures as it had a population of more than 1,700,000 as recently as 2009.

Some of the historical sites, as per Wikipedia, include the Citadel of Damascus; the Straight Street referred to in the Bible; The House of Ananias, an underground chapel; The Umayyad Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world and one of the oldest sites of continuous prayer since the rise of Islam, which includes a shrine that is said to contain the body of St. John the Baptist; the old city with its ramparts and city gates which date back to Roman times; and an untold number of churches, mosques, shrines, madrasas, khans, and old Damascene houses.

All of these sites spur the imagination and make me long to see them. I’d love to get lost in its twisting alleyways, and delve deep into the souks, surrounded by vendors who have been there for generations. By all rights, this city should be a hub of tourism and archeology. But for a variety of tragic reasons there is probably nothing left to see.

In October 2010, the Global Heritage Fund named Damascus one of 12 cultural heritage sites most on the verge of irreparable loss and destruction. At the time, one of the old souks had already been destroyed in only three days, and a traditional handicraft region was threatened by a proposed motorway. All in the name of progress. Also, 20,000 people had moved out of the Old City by 2005 in search of more modern accommodation, leaving many buildings abandoned and falling to ruin. So when that report came out, Damascus was, indeed, in danger. But little did they know.

Now the residents of this city, and indeed the entire country, are beleaguered by a civil war that has been going on since 2011. According to a recent article in Reuters, in some districts in Damascus, more than 3 quarters of the homes have been damaged. Some neighborhoods have been completely destroyed by Scud missiles, car bombs and air strikes. As food and supplies become scarce and more people abandon their homes, looters have run rampant.

It seems that what has endured for 10,000 years may well have been destroyed in only three by modern warfare. I weep for the people of Damascus, but I weep even more for the world, which has lost 10,000 years worth of history that can never be replaced.

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Umayyad Mosque and its surrounding, enticing neighborhood in better times. I wonder what it looks like now.

[Image credit: albumislam.com]

Mideast Syria

Here’s a recent image of a neighborhood near the Old City.

[Image credit: odf-syria.org]

“Those Towel Heads Can’t Be Trusted.”

Yup, that actually came out of a coworker’s mouth the other day while we were discussing the Boston bombings. And I must admit I went off. I couldn’t help it. I’m so sick of the ignorance and bigotry. This is what I said to him:

“Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good.”

                                                                  -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Naturally his response was, “Huh?” To which I replied, “Do you seriously think the Muslims are the only group with a lunatic fringe, a mentally deranged and evil element? Seriously? Okay, then how do you explain the following?”

  • Adolph Hitler was a Catholic.
  • Pol Pot was a Buddhist.
  • Stalin, responsible for the execution of hundreds of thousands of people, went to a Greek Orthodox Seminary.
  • Pinochet was a Catholic.
  • Vlad the Impaler, torturer of thousands, was Christian.
  • Baruch Goldstein, an Orthodox Jew, perpetrated the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in the city of Hebron, killing 29 Palestinian Muslim worshipers and wounding another 125.
  • Eric Rudolph, the Olympic Park Bomber, was Christian.
  • Ted Bundy was a Methodist.
  • James Holmes, the shooter in Aurora, Colorado, was Lutheran.
  • David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, called himself a born again Christian.
  • Sampson Kanderayi was a Christian who killed more than 30 people to appease evil spirits.
  • Andrew Kehoe, a Roman Catholic, blew up 45 people, 38 of them children, in a school in Lansing, Michigan.
  • Wade Michael Page, the man who shot six people in a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin last year, was a devout Christian.
  • Robert Oppenheimer, who oversaw the Manhattan Project which produced the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, instantly killing  150,000 men, women, and children and many many more in the years that followed, was interested in Hinduism.
  • Jeffrey Dahmer was baptized into the Church of Christ, the religion of his childhood, after he went to prison.
  • The Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, was an atheist.
  • Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine shooters, was Lutheran.
  • Ivan the Terrible was Russian Orthodox.
  • Charles Carl Roberts IV, the man who shot all the Amish school girls, was a member of the Faith Church.
  • Torquemada, the poster child of the Spanish Inquisition, was, of course, Catholic.
  • Timothy McVeigh was a Roman Catholic.
  • Adolf Eichmann was raised Lutheran, and was an active member of the Evangelical Church until 1937.
  • Mao Tse-tung, who was responsible for 40-70 MILLION deaths, was an atheist.
  • Genghis Khan prayed to the Burhan Haldun Mountain, and consulted Buddhist Monks, Muslims, Christian missionaries, and Taoist monks.
  • Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, was Catholic.

And how do you explain the following?

  • The vast majority of the participants in World Wars I and II were not Muslims.
  • In Rwanda, where the rivers have run with blood, 56.9% of the population is Roman Catholic, 26% is Protestant, 11.1% is Seventh-day Adventist, 4.6% is Muslim, 1.7% claims no religious affiliation, and 0.1% practices traditional indigenous beliefs such as the Jabiyan ethno-religious belief system.
  • Angola, home to one of the most brutal civil wars in history, is a predominately Christian country.
  • 33 people died in the Salem Witch Trials, which were conducted by a Puritan government.
  • Very few Muslims resided in America during our Revolutionary or Civil wars.
  • The vast majority of the owners of slave ships that transported slaves to the Americas were Christians.
  • The Aztecs hadn’t even HEARD of Islam, yet still managed to perform their human sacrifices.
  • Apartheid in South Africa was perpetuated by the Afrikaner minority. This system was responsible for the death of thousands and the displacement of hundreds of thousands. Afrikaners are predominately Calvinists.
  • At least 110,000 Iraqis have died since we Americans declared war on them. Some say it’s more like 1,033,000. 4,486 US soldiers were also killed. Our main justification for that war? 9/11. The number of Iraqis who were involved in the attack on the World Trade Center? 0. Another justification for that war: weapons of mass destruction. The number of weapons of mass destruction found? 0.
  • The murder-suicides in Jonestown were conducted by the People’s Temple Cult.
  • It was Christians who gave blankets infected with smallpox to the American Indians.
  • It was the US Public Health Service that intentionally misled 399 black sharecroppers into thinking they were being treated for their syphilis when in fact they were not. (They wanted to see how the disease would progress. Nice, huh?)
  • The Crusades were started by Pope Urban II.
  • When the Chinese tried to stop opium from being brought to their shores by the British, the British started the Opium Wars.
  • Germans slaughtered 10,000 Nama in South West Africa.
  • 11 Australian men, 10 of European descent and one of African descent, slaughtered 30 unarmed Aboriginals, mostly women, children, and old men, like they were dogs. It was called the Myall Creek massacre.

Do you still think the followers of Islam have cornered the market on murder and violence? Give me a break. We’re equally bad. And equally good, but that’s a subject for another blog entry.

So the next time you’re tempted to spew your Islamophobia, at least now you’ll have some facts, which means you’ll have to admit, at least to yourself, that what you’re trying to convince yourself of is actually nothing but hatred and ignorance. No culture is composed entirely of saints or completely of sinners. Stay stupid if you want to, but at least have the backbone to own it.

“Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good.”

                                                                             -Ralph Waldo Emerson

PEACE-IS-GOOD-MASTER-5

(Image credit: peaceisgood.net)

Reliving the Battle of Olustee

On February 20th, 1864 the battle of Olustee was fought here in Florida. It was the largest Civil War Battle in the state, and the second bloodiest battle for the Union. 296 soldiers died that day, only 93 of whom were Confederates. In the end the Union soldiers retreated 40 desolate miles back to Jacksonville, their collective tail between their legs.

One weekend a year each February, thousands descend on the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park to observe a reenactment of this battle, and in 2005 I bore witness to this event myself. The irony is that I live in Jacksonville, so heading out there I sort of experienced a reverse retreat. And I’m here to tell you that that section of Florida is still pretty darned desolate. I could only imagine the hellish journey amongst the snakes and swampland and sharp-leafed underbrush.

And the thing about that part of Florida is that the deeper you get into, well, absolutely the middle of nowhere, the more you can’t shake the feeling that you’re traveling back in time, and not in a good way. There’s this feeling of free floating anxiety that you can’t quite put your finger on. I wouldn’t want to be there after dark during that weekend. And I wouldn’t want to be there even in broad daylight if I were black. And indeed, amongst the throngs of people and reenactors I only saw one minority face, that of a black union soldier. This just isn’t an event you want to attend if you’re not a WASP, because for this one weekend a year, people who are proud of the south and its history, in all its ugly and misguided glory, get to celebrate. There are confederate flags everywhere, and there’s beer. Lots and lots of beer. That’s never a good combination, if you ask me.

I must say, though, they really pull out all the stops. While you’re there, you can visit the confederate and union camps, and check out a lot of the historic armaments and medical tools, which is kind of interesting. There’s also an arts and crafts fair, a fun run, and even a square dance.

I’m glad I experienced this once, but have to say I’ll never go back. Not only because I came down with the worst case of sun poisoning in the history of mankind, complete with turning a dark purple and vomiting for 48 hours, but also because, more than anything, I got the feeling that here was a crowd of people that were longing for those days, wishing they could have back what so many feel that the south lost when they lost the civil war. Instead of witnessing a battle and thinking, “Never again”, they were thinking, “Yeah Buddy! The South will RISE AGAIN!!!!” And that sort of made me sick. You’re supposed to learn about history so as not to repeat it, not revel in its darkness and long for it to return.

So would I recommend that you go to the Battle of Olustee? Yes, with caution and a rather large companion. But that’s a decision you’ll have to make on your own. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some of the pictures I took while I was getting sun poisoned.

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When Did “Intellectual” Become a Dirty Word?

I really want to try to avoid getting political on this blog. I really do. I would like to demonstrate that there are many things we can all talk about without arguing or debating. But walking up to work today, I swear to God, I thought my head was going to explode. One coworker was convinced we were all going to be in the midst of a civil war tomorrow. Another was lamenting the funding of libraries. Not the LACK of funding. The funding. He feels that there’s no more need for libraries, now that we have the internet. A third thought all senior citizens were going to be put in concentration camps. I wanted to say, “If we can’t afford libraries, how will we afford all these concentration camps? And where are all the family members who would allow granny to be trundled off like this? Sitting in the libraries, or off to civil war?” But I bit my tongue.

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I bite my tongue a lot lately. There’s no sense in arguing with these people, because they have one thing in common. Anti-intellectualism. They think the intellectuals are the source of all our ills, and that people with college degrees can’t be trusted. As if knowledge and learning in general are sources of evil. It’s impossible to have an intelligent conversation with someone who thinks intelligence is a problem.

Excuse me, but isn’t that what groups like the Taliban condone? They won’t even allow girls to go to school. Isn’t ignorance what we’re trying to get AWAY from? Lack of education and training is one of the very things that keeps third world countries in the third world. Is that really what we want to emulate?

My mother is probably spinning in her grave. As a first generation American, she prized learning above all else. Without an education, how are you supposed to lift yourself up out of poverty? She was preaching college to me from the age of six. It never occurred to me not to go. Many people come to this country so that their children will have a better life, so they can go to school, so they can do better than their parents did. People die every day trying to get to this country for those very reasons.

And yet there is an ever increasing number of people in this country who are holding up ignorance as if it were a goal to be strived for. If that’s the case, I weep for the future.

The most depressing thing about this particular blog entry is that I have no solutions. I wish I did. And I suspect that people who take the time to read blogs are most likely not the people that need to be convinced. But who knows. Even a blind pig finds an acorn every now and then. So I will leave you with this definition, for those who have never looked at a dictionary, courtesy of dictionary.com:

in·tel·lec·tu·al

[in-tl-ek-choo-uh l] adjective

1. appealing to or engaging the intellect: intellectual pursuits.

2. of or pertaining to the intellect or its use: intellectual powers.

3. possessing or showing intellect or mental capacity, especially to a high degree: an intellectual person.

4. guided or developed by or relying on the intellect rather than upon emotions or feelings; rational.

5. characterized by or suggesting a predominance of intellect: an intellectual way of speaking.