“There is a tendency to shrug off the overriding, glaring fact of 1861”

The title of this commentary has been quoted from an article written by Neil Genzingler for The New York Times (“Old-Time Stuff Is Not Forgotten,” Sunday, May 29, 2001) in which Genzingler discusses the media attention that the Civil War continues to receive, most notably by the award-winning documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns.

With regard to the American Civil War, Genzlinger observes, “The nation had to shed a part of itself that was indefensible on moral grounds, and doing so was going to be traumatic. ‘I’m always concerned with the way we cloak the war in bloodless, gallant myth,’ Mr. Burns said. There is a tendency, he said, to shrug off the overriding, glaring fact of 1861: ‘Four million Americans were owned by other Americans.’”

“When he was researching his series years ago, Mr. Burns said, he would be driving through the South and see signs outside, say, a barn advertising Civil War memorabilia, which in that part of the country meant Confederate memorabilia. ‘I was always struck that in practically every other place we’d go in, there was a side room where they were selling Nazi stuff,’ he said — evidence of ‘the fascination with the lost cause.’”

This coming week, there will be several special programs programs on television that offer additional opportunities to learn more about a war that technically ended at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, 146 years ago and yet, in some respects, may never end. For me, that is another “overriding, glaring fact” ”…and a very sad one as well.


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