Sunday, October 4, 2015

Civil War Sunday - A Well Educated Citizenry

The Civil War Trust (an organization devoted to preserving Civil War battlefields and other items of heritage) has produced a 27 minute long video summarizing the United States Civil War.  This video includes never before seen footage, some recreations, and a lot of historical photos and cartoons.

I started out writing this post a few days ago wanting to blog about a wonderful introduction for anyone interested in history, even if you don't follow war.  The photos alone are worth the watching.  Gaze into the eyes of those who lived this story, and you will be humbled.

It is well worth your time to watch.

(If you are a resident of another country, which many of my blog readers are, feel free to watch anyway.  Some of the lessons of this video are universal.)

What I loved was the animated maps. They show how the war spread to every corner of our country (smaller then than it is now), even to parts of our country that most people don't realize were involved. In ways small or large, this war affected everyone in our country.

In my Civil War studies, I've learned so much that I never learned in school.  Once we are adults, it is up to us to continue to educate ourselves.

But this 27 minutes of history reminded me of something which is as current as the latest tragic headlines in our country.

People can debate the "why" of the Civil War even today but one thing is clear:  back in the first half of the 19th century, our nation faced problems that seemed to have no solution.  Whatever we tried as a "solution" didn't seem to work. We talked and talked and talked, and never faced these problems head on in the way that they had to be faced.  Finally, our ancestors' half actions almost tore our nation apart.  We fought a war between ourselves from 1861 to 1865, a war that I, and others, maintain has never quite ended.  We ended the shooting part of that war with a death toll in the hundreds of thousands. 

Now, our country faces other internal crises.  We wonder if we have lost our national will, if we can come to resolutions, or if the damage we are doing to ourselves will continue.

But, discouragingly, so many of us look to rumors, to statistics (which can be easily manipulated), to cute Facebook pictures with simplistic slogans, to form our opinions and shape how we think.

Perhaps, in a way, it is good to look back and reflect on the fact that we have survived much worse. There have been other times in history when we felt we lost our way.  This isn't our first crisis, and there will be more in the future.  That can be said for any country - it's a universal message.

(That is one reason why battlefields and other relics of history must be preserved, a topic I have blogged about before.  We must learn from history, and certain terrorists and despots destroy history, knowing this well.)

We should also reflect on the fact that we do need to solve the problems we face now instead of trying half measures.  They aren't easy problems, but progress does not come easily or without pain. And part of this pain is to educate ourselves - truly educate ourselves - and, perhaps, preparing to change some of our opinions.  Ouch.  The solutions will be painful, if they are true solutions.

But I am so tired of seeing, on my Facebook wall, simplistic slogans and rumors in response to a national tragedy.  I check these out the vast majority of times.  If the search shows the information is only on websites with a certain bias, I discard the information.  Anyone can do the same searches.

It's too bad that our Constitution does not have a clause requiring a well educated citizenry.  I strive towards that ideal.  I don't always succeed.  But I do know one thing.

History has a way of solving problems for us that we do not solve ourselves, and watching this video will help remind us of that fact.  We must be educated in order to start the solving process.

And, just like the Civil War, we will not like the solution history chooses for us if we don't choose good solutions as a people while we still have the power.  And soon, before we inflict any more damage on ourselves, or lose that ability as we are swept into the whirlpool born by inaction.

Our survival as a nation of the free depends on it.


  1. I learned a lot about the war when I went to Gettysburg that I was never told in school. It was not a war just about slavery. As for a well-educated citizenry, I gave up on that hope a long time ago.

  2. A well-educated citizenry would be a good thing. But that requires effort. Too many people aren't willing to put in the effort.

  3. Aptly said and that solving process needs to be an ongoing affair..only then the purpose would be accomplished!!


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