Monday, September 7, 2009

Team of Rivals

I finished Team of Rivals quite some time ago. Life has been getting in the way of blogging lately, as has work. While listening to Team of Rivals, my friend CK pointed me to Ta-Nehisi Coates over at The Atlantic. Ta-Nehisi writes some great stuff on race, the civil war, politics, etc.

My interest in the American Civil War was prompted by listening to NPR and thinking about the civil war strife that is taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although there is the element of religious strife not as strongly present in our Civil War, I am mystified by these neighbors whose children played together, who shopped at the same market, sometimes worked together, and then one day they want to kill each other. Families torn apart, brothers, fathers, sons, joining up with the "other side." Every time, I would think to myself, why to "these people" do this? There would be this voice in the back of my head whispering, "we did it too." But really, all I knew was that yes, Sherman did destroy the south as he marched through and it did seem to me that reconciliation did take quite some time.

What I learned about Civil War, the lead up to it, and the conclusion of the war, was that we are not that different. The North was quite willing to die for the restoration of the Union. In time, some in the North were willing to die to end slavery. The South was quite willing to die to continue to enslave other human beings. It is my understanding that the number of southerners who actually owned slaves was low. This means that the number of southerners who didn't own slaves but were willing to die to continue to hold slaves was really quite astonishing to me.

The problem with listening to a book on cd in the car is that I can't flag the parts that shock me, make me sad, or interest me. There were so many interesting events and statements in this book. It is even more difficult to recall them all so long after I heard them.

In the end, I still don't understand how people can turn on the people in their lives so quickly and violently. But I do understand that we aren't that special, we did it too.

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