The Civil War is not over

163 years and counting

The Civil War is not over. I’ve known this for a while, but something triggered this reaction. Doug, the Weekly Sift guy, gave a sermon at the Unitarian Church of Quincy, Illinois on May 5, 2024, titled Hope, Denial, and Healthy Relationship with the News.

I related to this part particularly.  “Today… I’m talking about an experience that I know is personal, but I’m only guessing about its universality… The experience is an intense spiraling downward that gets triggered not by anything in my personal life, but from my interaction with the news. I hear about something in the outside world, the public world that we all share, and then the walls come tumbling down.”

Frank’s trigger was Robert Hur’s investigation of “President Biden’s unauthorized retention of classified documents.” While he “found nothing that would justify pressing charges,… along the way, he took a swipe at Biden’s mental competence,” and others piled on.

“And that’s when the bottom fell out of my mood. The effect lasted for several days. I would seem to be coming out of it, but then something would remind me and I’d sink back down again… that experience, that sudden mood collapse touched off by something in the news. The something doesn’t have to relate to politics or elections. It could be about climate change, the Supreme Court or what corporate capitalism is doing to our culture or whatever else you happen to worry about.

“One minute, you’re sailing along calmly, thinking, ‘Yeah, there are problems, but we’ll be OK.’ And then you hear or see something…
And in an instant, the bottom falls out… I experience this as depression and despair, but I know other people for whom it manifests as anger: How can so many people be so stupid, self-centered, or short-sighted?”


For me, it was something that, in the grander scheme of things, isn’t desperately consequential. But it hit me. A Virginia school board votes to restore Confederate names to two schools.

There had been an acknowledgment that the war was fought over the issue of slavery. And oh, and by the way, slavery was BAD, despite the attempt of some to put lipstick on a pig; “They learned marketable skills!”

But the “school board members who voted to restore the Confederate names said the previous board ignored popular sentiment and due process when the names were stripped.” Yeah, their “heritage” was intruded upon.

So that war which killed over six hundred thousand Americans, the deadliest military conflict in US history, is still being litigated. In the Gettysburg Address, Abe Lincoln noted, “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

Shortly after that awful war, Memorial Day was established, “honoring and mourning the U.S. military personnel who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.”

As we relitigate voting rights and other issues of once-settled policy, it makes me feel what Doug feels, “depression and despair.” The mourning isn’t for the dead per se as much as it is a feeling that in some substantial way that I would not have expected twenty years ago, the fight continues.

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