Saturday, May 15, 2010

Remembrance and the Meaning of Life


When I established this blog, my purpose was to foment a discussion of all social, political and cultural aspects of the Civil War and how it effected, and still effects, the fabric of our local and national experience. Some of my initial posts in 2008 did just that, somewhat, but as time went on I became a bit more straightforward in my presentation of history, and less on the reflective bent.

Today is the 15th of May, pretty much smack dab in the middle of the month of remembrance. Locally, it is the anniversary month of three of the four major battles that raged over this region during an eighteen month period, December 1862 through May 1864. During that time, the soil of Spotsylvania County became a blood soaked landscape, literally. Within that span there were over one hundred thousand casualties, a true testament to the horrors of what men can do to each other when embracing the triad of “duty, honor, and country.” And that is, what it is. Our national sacrifices along these lines are remembered at the conclusion of this month, with the observance of Memorial Day. So in many respects, May is a very significant month in the collective experience of our nation. At the same time, for a good many people, the “Memorial Day weekend” is the precursor to “summer vacation”, and is spent in traveling to fun in the sun spots, and endless barbeques. The true solemnity of the intent is lost in revelry and laughter. This “Holiday” has become an embraced “extra day off” as well as an excuse to hold “SALES” at most any retail establishment. Again, that is what that is. The collective conscience seemingly deals with this lapse.

Personally, I find it disturbing that we, as a society, find it easy to “drop the ball” so to speak, on acknowledging the human toll, both in lives lost and in depredations across the board. Initially, it may be excused as the societal mind’s effort to steel itself against the “emotional plague of mankind” as Wilhelm Reich defined it. However, I believe it is more correctly interpreted as a movement toward a trend of “social engineering” where mankind represses so many “hurtful” things that ultimately the society weakens its resolve and slides toward emasculated culture. This is the destiny of an increasingly nihilistic society. Ultimately we sit on a precipice where historiography will fall victim to the historian’s fallacy, and apply a skewed interpretation of the past via the jaundiced eye of presentism.

That’s my take on it at least.

The stereo image at top was taken in April 1866, and depicts exposed remains of battle deaths on the Wilderness battlefield. When photographed, they had been lying there for nearly two years.

1 comment:

Barbie said...

This photo is amazing. I have just returned from Fredericksburg and, for the first time, have seen the battlefields. It was a true eye opener. This is my first visit to your blog. I will return. Thanks.