Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Reflections on Confederate Heroes Day

I'm not at work today. There's only a skeleton crew there since it's Confederate Heroes Day. I don't know how the State of Texas gets away with having such a holiday, but I suspect nobody's complaining. Getting 14 paid holidays a year is the sole remaining advantage of being a state employee, now that the Lege has eviscerated our benefits and job security.

At any rate, this is a conflicted day for me since I'm a direct descendant of at least three Confederate soldiers. One great-great-grandfather was injured at the Battle of Brandy Station, one was captured at Bayou Teche, Louisiana, and spent time on a Union prison boat. The third was shot at the Battle of Gettysburg.

It's the last one that I've thought about the most. He was an 18-year-old who had just lost his older brother in the war. He took a rifle ball on the first day of the battle. I've wondered what went through his mind in the next few days as he lay there in agony with the sounds of fighting going on around him. He was a dirt poor Louisiana farm boy whose family had never owned a slave. Did he have a clue that he was merely a pawn serving the economic interests of the power elite? I have a feeling that the jingoistic propaganda machine of that day worked in much the same way as the one today. Impressionable and testosterone-laden young men are easily duped by the call to "defend" their homeland.

So, while I don't agree with their cause, I have to acknowledge that my ancestors were called to do a job, and no matter how misguided, they answered that call heroically. I think of them in the same way as the men and women who were called to go to Viet Nam or the ones in Iraq today. I have to hate the machine, not the fodder that is burned to keep it going.

It bothers me to be a member of a race that's been the scourge of the earth. My dad took a DNA test that showed that we are descended from the Vikings. Those guys wreaked havoc in France, then England, and their descendants then crossed the Atlantic to destroy the indigenous cultures in this hemisphere. I don't have any control over history or my lineage. The only thing I can do is to try to live in such a way so as to alleviate some of the misery caused by my ancestor's actions....or at the very least, not compound it.


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