Thursday, September 15, 2011
Gettysburg: Turning Point of Turning Points: The first three days of July 1863 were perhaps the most important three days in American military history. In Adams County, Pennsylvania, near the town of Gettysburg, the Army of the Potomac (Union) clashed with the Army of Northern Virginia (Confederacy). In the month prior to the battle, Confederate troops had been pillaging various towns across Southern Pennsylvania in search of supplies (shoes and food). But these Confederate troop movements had a secondary purpose; to draw part of the Union Army away from its garrison around Washington. Confederate General Robert E. Lee arranged his troops to do battle in a town with sprawling fields, rolling hills, and minimal military significance. And on July 1st, Lee gained the upper hand over Union General George G. Meade, as Confederate troops bombarded the Union's low-lying positions with artillery fire. Yet July 2nd proved a watershed in the battle, as Confederate troops moved to attack Union positions at Little Round Top, and Colonel Joshua Chamberlain (depicted by Jeff Daniels in the above video) guided his Union troops to a gut-wrenching victory. Gettysburg's third day (July 3rd) offered archetypal imagery for American civil religion, as it included Major General George Pickett's ill-fated Confederate charge, which gave the Union Army all the momentum it needed for the remainder of the Civil War.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
On the Psychology of Diasporas: In the postmodern West, we collectively struggle with the idea of homelessness, especially as it pertains to nationhood. Those who, by historical chance, ended up in lands far away from their true homeland are often subjected to intense ethnoracial scrutiny. Perhaps nationalism is to blame or maybe we need to reevaluate fundamentally the meaning of "citizenship." Yet it is the perverted notions of human dignity such as racism and ethnocentrism which push people to foster unruly mechanisms of exclusion and abandonment. The pseudo-romantic idea that our peoples were somehow better off in their original homelands will be challenged by any postmodern understanding of the past. You ultimately have no original homeland on Earth. As Nietzsche once stated, "Woe, when you feel homesick for the land as if it had offered more freedom - and there is no longer any land." The postmodern condition is currently eroding any ideas of racial purity from our collective unconscious. Today we are told NOT to think in terms of race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, and class because each concept only breeds injustice, inequality, and intolerance. But we MUST continue to think in those terms precisely because they help us identify, and even rectify, the injustice, inequality, and intolerance of yesterday.