The Same World

Reading the brilliant Race and Reunion book by David Blight which gives evidence of the 3 narratives of the post Civil War era of emancipation, North/South reconciliation and white supremacy and how emancipation was largely pushed aside in favor of the other two. In the book, the origins of Memorial Day are discussed. What began as a day in many communities to honor those lost in the War, (one of the earliest post-war events was in 1865 was staged by African-Americans in South Carolina to honor the Union soldiers who had died in their Confederate prison), Decoration Day quickly became a day for “genre” for oration and assumed a political character of reconciliation. “By the early 1870s, a group of ex-confederate soldiers in Virginia had forged a coalition of memorial groups that quickly took over the creation of the “Lost Cause” tradition… In the South, monument unveiling took on a significance equal to, if not greater than, Memorial Day. The story of Civil War memory and the rituals of Decoration Days continued well beyond 1885 with the emancipationist legacy fighting endless rearguard actions against a Blue-Gray reconciliation that was to sweep American culture.”

In a column entitled “Memorial Day”, Albion Tourgee wrote: “To dwell upon the hero’s suffering and ignore the motive which inspired his acts is top degrade him to the level of mercenary. Fame dwells in purpose as well as in achievement. Fortitude is sanctified only by its aim.”

As Clifford Geertz has written, “In a ritual, the world as lived and the world as imagined, fused under the agency of a single set of symbolic forms, turns out to be the same world.”

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About DW

New Orleans resident, writer, activist. Public market consultant.

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