September 18, 2012 — You know, it is important to note for us Americans, that yesterday, September 17, marked important anniversaries of two significant moments in our history: The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam (The bloodiest battle in our history – blood splashed everywhere, even on children, so many bodies it changed the way we buried people – in public cemeteries for the first time; the Sanitary Commission were beside themselves until they encountered all the dead horses, an even worse debacle.) Those conditions led to citizens dying of typhoid, as you might imagine. This bloodbath led to President Lincoln’s issuing the Emancipation Proclamation that year, 1862. In 1865, a sufficient number of states ratified the 13th amendment abolishing slavery; while Mississippi might have been fixin’ to ratify that amendment, they didn’t get around to it until March 16, 1995.
The other significant date is the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1787.
I saw author and social historian Kathleen A. Ernst give a book presentation (on C-Span Book TV) at Sharpsburg/Antietam on her book, researched and written with Ted Alexander, Too Afraid to Cry: Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign. Enlightening. Unimaginable what those people endured. People who were children at the time later recounted many of the stories.
During the course of the Civil War 2.5 percent of Americans died. If they died today, that percentage would total 7 million people, one million fewer than the population of New York City.
Tonight PBS is airing a new Ric Burns documentary, “Death and the Civil War” (for “American Experience”), based on the book by Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust, coincidentally born Sepember 18, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War.
And you thought my book titles were long, to wit: Begins the Night Music: A Dementia Caregiver’s Journal.
The essence here is suffering and the nature of the human condition.
And our social condition, as a friend put it: “The legal niceties of blame.”
We need to think much more about this, we humans; it is enough that there is so much suffering and not enough research funding and knowledge, but then to haul off and bomb embassies and wage wars … I don’t know. I prefer to read a good book.