A Little Bit of Fall and a Lot of Remembrance

September 18, 2012

Mums at roadside market

The weather was clear and cool this past weekend.  It was a relief to have a respite from the heat and humidity that so characterized this past summer.  While this may have just been a tease, it was a pleasant one at that.   Along with the arrival of cool temperatures, we are starting to see the colour of fall as well.

Street scene in Shepherdstown, WVa

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

And since the weather was so nice, spending some time in Shepherdstown, WVa seemed like a good idea. Being able to walk around and not become wringing wet from sweat was welcome.

Yellow ribbon hanging from railing

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It was also the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.  On September 17, 1862, 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or went missing-more can be read here and here.  The yellow ribbons that were hung throughout the town served as a remembrance of this grimmest of days.

“Grim” does not even begin to convey the horror of such killing.  In fact, it seems difficult to find a phrase to attach to such an event, even all these years later.  And  that was one day and one battle.  All told, it is estimated that 750,000 were killed during the four years of the Civil War, a statistic explored in the new Ric Burns documentary “Death and the Civil War”, which is part of the American Experience series on PBS.  (It is worth noting that in 1994, Rwandan Hutus slaughtered between 800,000 and 1,000,000 Rwandan Tutsis in 100 days.)  The National Park Service uses the terms “memorial ceremonies” and “commemorate” as descriptors for the activities held over the weekend, and such terms might engender a particular type of remembrance:  that of events which ought not be repeated.

However, the American Civil War lasted another two years after Antietam, and, soon thereafter, came the First World War, also known as the “war to end all wars”.  That was until World War Two.  Then Korea (yes, it was officially a “police action”), Viet Nam, the First Gulf War, then Afghanistan, and Iraq.  These are the wars in which the United States fought during the 20th and 21st centuries-there are exponentially more conflicts and wars that have been fought by other countries in other lands.

150 years later, we are still at it, so what is it that we are to remember and why?

Take care.

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