View From Gettysburg

The Ithaca Journal has a piece today on the Tompkins County Civil War Sesquicentennial Commemoration events.  This ties in with some thoughts I had already been putting together.

cannonLast year, after a family trip to Gettysburg, I read the book 1858, by Bruce Chadwick.  I felt in my bones that the country was coming apart, and I wanted to find out something about another time the nation was fraying.
 
I didn't know anything about the Buchanan presidency, and not much, really, about Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant and the other characters of the time.  As I read their stories late into the night, time and again I would jump up, feeling that I had found some incredible parallel between 1858 and 2010.  Both years were mid-term elections, in which the Republicans made impressive gains in Congress.  In both years, the U.S. Constitution and states' rights were central to partisan passions.  In both years, the Federal government was pushing policies that many people thought were completely wrong.
 
From 1858:
... President James Buchanan ignored slavery, engaged in questionable imperialist schemes, divided his own party during the elections, started feuds with dozens of important people, and exhibited a distinct lack of leadership at a time when the nation desperately needed some. 
Events such as the trial of the Oberlin Rescuers in Ohio and the current legislative standoff in Madison captured the attention of the nation as escalating tensions drove "brother against brother."
 
About Madison, Robert Tracinski writes
... the left is treating any attempt to fundamentally reform the public workers' paradise as an existential crisis. This is why they are reacting with the most extreme measures short of outright insurrection. When Democratic lawmakers flee the state in order to deprive their legislatures of the quorum necessary to vote, they are declaring that they would rather have no legislature than allow voting on any bill that would break the power of the unions.
 
National Review's Jim Geraghty describes these legislative walk-outs as "small-scale, temporary secessions." The analogy is exact. One hundred and fifty years ago, Southern slaveholders realized that the political balance of the nation had tipped against them, that they could no longer hope to win the political argument for their system. Faced with a federal government in which they were out-voted, they decided that they would rather have no federal government at all. The Democrats' current cause may not be as repugnant—holding human beings as chattel is a unique evil—but it has something of the same character of irrational, belligerent denial. More than two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the left is still trying to pretend that socialism is plausible as an economic system.
So, back to the local Civil War Commemoration.  The History Center has an exhibit titled "Dear Friend Amelia -- Lives and Letters of the Civil War."  There are personal accounts of the war, with letters from Private John Tidd of Speedsville and Major Doctor Targell of Ithaca on display with artifacts of soldiers and civilians.  Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday or by appointment at the History Center. The exhibit runs until July 2011.
 
Future historians will write about the times we are living in.  It is worth writing down your personal account for future generations to understand.  That is one reason this blog exists.
 
It is worth pondering the disunion of the Civil War, and its cost.  If people cannot live together, is there a way to live apart without a Gettysburg?