Why We Love the Civil War – Then and Now
Drew Gilpin Faust’s essay We Should Grow Too Fond of It: Why We Love the Civil War touches on both the morbid interest the public have for war and warfare and the mindset of participants in war. The essay conveys the interesting perspective of the soldiers and other involved people in the Civil War, and their belief that war would cleanse and bring a new, fresh beginning. The writer analyzes why war is so fascinating to people and remains so throughout the centuries. The essay details the increasing number of books and journals being written about the Civil War and the reasons behind this growing interest in war literature. The Civil War is one of the most perfect examples of documented war as it was recorded closely and in detail by journalists, writers and soldiers from both the North and the South. As it was a war which was not localized it involved every man, woman and child in the country. Diaries and letters were crucial in their contribution to Civil War history today.
The interest in the Civil War peaked during the early 1990’s when a television series was made. This brought the war into homes everywhere, homes which may never have had any interest in the Civil War or read about it before. This came at a time when the 1991 Desert Storm took place and it may have contributed to the change in peoples’ views about war.
The essay considers the difference in attitudes towards Vietnam and the current reasons behind war. It concludes that how war is perceived can be greatly affected by the way it is told as all wars ultimately become stories.
Reading the essay I was both surprised and disappointed by human nature. The morbid and ugly yet fascinating interest people have in all that is violent and gory had not started at the turn of the century with the highly glamorous mobs and GI’s as I had comfortably believed in but possibly from the beginning of time itself.
Even with such escalating violence today it is difficult to imagine the desire felt by soldiers and civilians alike during that time to kill and be killed. People did, undoubtedly, have much more purer and stronger feelings of patriotism and religion, enough to die for. I can understand the passion and longing felt by people today as they compare back to those Civil War days, trying to understand the heroism of men as if they were a whole different species altogether. The romance ensuing stories held for women and children ensured that each story passed on was more glorified and romantic than the last time it was told.
Still, I find it hard to accept the belief that war would cleanse and purge and create a whole new, better world. If this was one of the reasons for the Civil war then surely the carnage, pollution, hunger, diseases and orphans and bitter remaining family members could not have been the new, better world. Homeless and hungry people can be anything but purged and happy, rather pillaging and stealing to eat and survive. By how much did the country actually improve, then, with regard to achieving better ethics, better politics and cleansed spirituality?
While war may be seen as necessary by politics and finances, and even though the reason and cause of the Civil War is wondrously still debated today, there is a fine line between the well-meaning, if maybe misguided, untarnished beliefs and vision of the soldiers and people of both the North and the South in the Civil War and later wars which present nothing but the excuse of satisfying the need for economic and prestigious gain at the cost of innocent lives. I believe civil wars are a natural culmination of opposing views in what is good for a country. War should not be the solution yet at the very least it involves love and passion for one’s own country and is something all opposing sides share in common. However, this does not and should not apply to warfare carried out against other, unrelated nations and only results in lessons to be learnt and confused, stumbling fighting men who learn nothing of true patriotism as opposed to the brave, romantic battle cries of patriotism and love.
The Civil War should not be presented as an example of why more wars are good, but when wars can be fought and justified at the same time.