Friday, June 26, 2015

The American Civil War: fact or fiction?

News item: Apple withdraws Civil War games from sale over Confederate flag sensitivity.…/06/25/apple-removes-confederate-f…/

Photograph of Abraham Lincoln late in life shows the strain on him of having to pretend there was a Civil War going on.

Hoople, ND -- Apple's decision to pull Civil War games from online availability turns out to have
better historical grounding than it may appear, according to a couple of historians on the faculty of the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople. 

The two professors have concluded after years of exhaustive research that the American Civil War in fact never took place. Astonished by this revelation, I spoke to the scholars -- Wright S. Raine and Ambrose Truelove -- by phone earlier today.

"Professor Raine," I began, "how can you possibly overturn decades of scholarship, including an abundance of primary documents and photographs, that seem to assert the horrible reality of the Civil War?"

"We realize there will be massive resistance to our conclusion," Raine replied, "but we're confident that looking in a new way at the evidence to which you allude is supported by the facts."

"The mythification of the Civil War has gone on for long enough," Truelove added. "An entire industry, based both in academia and the outside world, is entrenched and can be expected to be fiercely loyal to the conventional narrative."

"Well, why not?" I suggested. "How do you otherwise explain what appears to be the greatest existential crisis in American history?"

"War games, basically," Raine said quickly. "It was an elaborate scheme to speed recovery from the Panic of 1837. Thousands of idle young men had to be usefully occupied. Ineffectual presidents were unable to put the plan into play until Abe Lincoln came along."

"He was like Cecil B. DeMille on steroids," said Truelove admiringly, alluding to the legendary
Hollywood director known for his casts of thousands.

"Still, it doesn't seem one man, no matter how extraordinary, could mastermind such a colossal deception," I said skeptically. "And what about slavery, which we've come to understand was the essential cause of the Civil War?"

"All part of the illusion," Truelove explains. "An added touch of color, if you'll pardon the expression. Those incorrectly labeled slaves were actually African tourists, eager to sample life in this new country -- the hope of the world -- and given such memorable experiences they decided to stay. Their time in the game was often painfully realistic, to be sure, but they appreciated the authenticity."

"Sort of like the dude-ranch idea, then?" I asked. "Like when city slickers wanted to see what the cowboy life would feel like?"
"Exactly!" the professors said in unison.

"Well, you gentlemen have certainly upset a lot of apple carts here!" I exclaimed. "This should really reduce the appeal of visiting Civil War battlefields, for instance."

"Not at all," Raine retorted. "Each one is like a stage set. And Americans love theme parks. This could put new life into their preservation; our findings have great commercial potential."

"Just consider," Truelove interjected, "our research has made those noisy, smoky, fake-casualty Civil War reenactments closer than ever to what really happened."
"That's right," Raine said with enthusiasm. "And beyond those hobbyists and buffs, our findings should give Americans a great sense of relief."

I was puzzled. "Relief? How do you mean?"

Raine was  ready as usual: "Americans have a rock-solid belief that they're different. Our discoveries about the Civil War mean they no longer need to endure the knowledge that their beloved nation went through four years of divisive, nearly terminal bloodshed over an institution that made millions of people property, deprived of liberty and subject to horrific abuse."

Truelove chimed in: "Precisely! By looking at the evidence more closely, we have reinforced the doctrine of American exceptionalism. How could Ronald Reagan's idea of 'the city on a hill' be valid if the Civil War, slavery and racism, quarrels over the Confederate flag and all that had a genuine historical basis? Our work -- and it hasn't been easy -- will let Americans feel good about themselves again."

"Well, maybe," I said doubtfully. "But there's always the Indian wars."

There was a pause at the other end of the line. "Indian wars?" said Prof. Truelove. "Do you know what he's talking about, Wright?"

"Vaguely," Raine said softly. "And I think I have an idea for our next project. We better get to work. Nice talking to you."

They hung up quickly. I was unable to thank them for the opportunity they had given me to point the way toward their next breakthrough.

[appicon]If you've been watching the news recently, you'll know of the huge debate in the U.S over the role of the Confederate flag in contemporary America. Many...

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