Monday, November 19, 2012

Oregon's amputated Civil War memory

While Oregonians celebrate the coming of "The Civil War” football game on Saturday, we will continue to blindly forget that the words "Civil War" have chilling meaning.

In is now believed that some 700,000 Americans died in our American Civil War. That’s a number larger than the population of Portland. Imagine a city erased by death.

And yet we persist in calling a football game “The Civil War.”

For decades Americans and fought and died abroad in what were civil wars: in Korea, in Vietnam, in Iraq. Today they fight and die in Afghanistan. Tomorrow young Americans could join the civil war in Syria. As I write the fighting going is going on in Gaza, a battlefield in an endless, intermittent civil war between Palestinians and Israelis.

And yet we persist in calling a mere football game “The Civil War.”

To Duck and Beaver fans and other Oregon sports spectators, I commend reading THIS in today's New York Times:

The article closes with the following words:

Amputation was the most common Civil War surgical procedure. Union surgeons performed approximately 30,000 compared to just over 16,000 by American surgeons in World War II. One postwar British traveler noted that amputees were “everywhere in town and farm communities through the South.” The men who had survived the surgeon’s knife were a visible reminder of the Civil War for decades.
No longer. Today's veterans more often suffer from the torment of memory. The haunted have taken their own lives by the thousands.

Yet today, in Oregon, we and the media have amputated the darker meaning of “Civil War” from our minds. We are victims of our own ignorance and insensitivity.

Oregonians, it is well past time for us to come up with a joyful, playful name for our friendly, passionate rivalry — and to end our "Civil War."

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