Friday, December 24, 2010

Civil War Commemoration and Christmas Contention

This Christmas season has me wondering about the disconnect between expressed ideals and the created reality. Even as I observe this in myself I see how it frames the questions of interest...and the work it inspires in this series.
[converging research interests - Cultural Fusion Art as Philosophy:evolution of oral traditions, art based research: cultural vocabulary, A/r/tographic community change research model, Prallaxic Praxis:Touchstones Learning, Public Art a Public Service in development of open source solutions]

Living History and Pubic Protest Art

My Aunt and Uncle were among those who showed up to protest the gala event attended by director to whom my questions about the Fairfield County Museum were addressed in my comment post at the end of this blog entry. Reports I heard said the protest attendance was a bit higher at around 250 no need to split hairs over that. Protesters using and gala attendees alike were using theatrical cultural references to demonstrate political revelation in public performance.

Picture below includes director of Fairfield County Museum mentioned in conclusion of this post.

For revellers, the Civil War wasn't about slavery

By David Usborne 5:30 AM Friday Dec 24, 2010

"Inside the hall, 200-odd guests, all white and some in period costume, gathered on Tuesday to see a re-enactment of the signing of the secession document. When it was over, they instinctively joined the cast in singing the anthem of the South, Dixie, before dinner and dancing.

Outside, a racially mixed crowd of about 100 held electric candles aloft at dusk to begin a protest march through downtown Charleston, singing the songs of Selma and Montgomery, including We Shall Overcome. Each camp thus indulged in their forms of theatre before taking to their beds."

..."The South lost the war but they really won it, because they continue to say the war was not about slavery, which is not true of course," argued Blain Roberts, an assistant professor of history at California State University, who attended the Secession Gala to conduct research for a book. "They won the memory of the war, at least."

But the United States is only at the beginning of a four-year stretch of events to commemorate the Civil War, which will peak with the anniversary in November 2013 of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address."

Identifying sources in Cultural Vocabulary

Of the articles I found about the specific even that provide the emotional energy culmination for this post - It would be this one from a New Zealand news site that seems to best express the heart of the matter while conveying specifics of conflict and finally, why it is relevant today.

For revellers, the Civil War wasn't about slavery goes on to say...

"I am a proud American and I wouldn't want our country to go through that again," Bill Norris, 60, a maker of banking machinery and gala guest, said. Yet, he wonders, what if the Confederacy had won?

"A part of me does regret it didn't happen," he said. "I believe at some point in dividing the country. We would be better able to govern ourselves in smaller groups. Why should New Yorkers be able to influence government in South Carolina?"

Defining Multiple Contexts

While I do not argue the need for the American Civil War to be acknowledged as part of our national history, I do find some predominate interpretations to be problematic. I find it hard to ignore the obvious question when people want to celebrate the confederacy.
What would it mean for the nation today IF the Federal government had not preserved the union? Is it possible to make it a side issue a core principle and reality being denied by the confederacy was the freedom of my ancestors - the right to belong to themselves. As a matter of function of the humanities to serve the public, the history museum as a resource for the commons, must be acknowledged as an institutional authority where programmatic successes are concerned.

Since a predominate intention of this work is to use these ideas and feelings to advance the art work as inquiry and discovery I continue to use this blog to talk to you about its progress.

The piece shown to the left is a mixed media painting "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

"The dancing was interrupted only once when a plastic oak tree draped with fake Spanish moss toppled over after being sideswiped by a damsel who had briefly forgotten how impractical those old-fashioned skirts were.

Givens found all the questions about slavery pesky. "We are not celebrating that and this is not malicious," he said. "It's about honouring our forefathers for their tenacity. It's about the bravery and courage of our ancestors.

"Can you not be selective about what you are nostalgic about?"

On hand to galvanise the protesters was a local clergyman, the Rev Nelson Rivers. "If Japanese Americans chose to celebrate Pearl Harbour this way it would be outrageous and would not be allowed to occur and that is what is happening here tonight," he said into a megaphone.

Tangee Rice, 57, an African American woman, drove 190km to the march and was wearing the same hat her grandfather had worn marching with Martin Luther King. "The Confederacy is not something to celebrate," she said. "It's just not right." About those re-enacting the start of the Civil War, she said: "They still haven't grown out of it, and it's really sad."


Understanding Contexts

Understanding the contexts of questions and conclusions has pushed me to hold in view. I want to side step the issue of blame without giving up the opportunity to present questions about how what is relates to what has been.

I was not happy when Webb Introduced Bill to Establish Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission but at the same time that I contemplate the political revelations, I ponder the apple as a persistent image with cultural significance. This piece marks precisely, an element in the cultural vocabulary that my work has been exploring with inclusion of feminist art inquiry.

Most who attended the recent ball as part of these "festivities" reenacting the state's secession ball in Charleston, S.C. are clearly marking a different set of touchstones in association with the Civil War and its southern legacy from those conjured by "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree".

Feminist art undertones

Issues of race and gender have commanded attention as part of articulating identity and deciphering national identity in a global tribe. Images that came to me when working on Surviving the South piece are reemerging in another work in process. I am preparing to cut or rip this one, still untitled, into pieces that will be applied to a found object with a sense of history - looking back, but redefined in this new context.

In response to an editorial piece by the director of the Fairfield County Museum, who has inspired other works in this series going back to "what is peace?" genesis of , that was published in The State newspaper website I posted the following comment:

Can we agree that a terrorist is a radical who employs terror as a political weapon; usually organizes with other terrorists in small cells? In the context of the civil war - that seems to fit the confederates.

The bottom line is that many are calling for us to celebrate Domestic Terrorism. Was Lincoln's response that different from Bush's response to contemporary terrorism? It seems that the national policy has been pretty consistent in dealing with that kind of activity, so I repeat the question being asked by many who have not posted here - "what is there to celebrate?"
A terrorist is a terrorist. Whether born here or elsewhere, actions define a life and that is the legacy they leave for their well as, in many cases, wealth built on the backs of slaves.

I also know Pelham and wonder how as a fellow student of history the obvious can be so grievously overlooked? But that also helps to explain a great deal about why things are as they are - and would ask you to consider the role of the history museum in being a place to continue dialogues about histories lessons versus enshrining the south's past with its corresponding prevalent mindsets. For example, The Oral History Project and similar exhibitions at the museum in Fairfield was an encouraging step in the right direction of increasing inclusion and the diversity of perspectives on history - very good for opening dialogues that could move the community forward. Instead, such projects have been shut down and gotten menial support at best - while fund-raising to preserve more destructive elements of our historical past have gotten full attention and considerably more funding support.

The rationale for what the confederates did - and those who think it is something worthy of celebration is every bit as logical as our modern day terrorist and their supporters.

I wonder if there will be a call for non-accusatory remembrances of September 11th in a couple hundred years? Will there be a call for the descents of those victims to be understanding of the rationalization for the terrorists crimes? How does that attack that lasted a single day compare with this one that lasted four years?

Perhaps a more constructive way of acknowledging this part of history would be to focus on Forgiveness - where to forgive is to give up hope of a better past.
If anyone is interested in continuing THIS dialogue I invite you to contact me and join me in I am in the process of developing art and events focused on bringing people together to explore the reality and context of Forgiveness - it is the healing salve we need to strengthen our communities and families. Perhaps this time of recognition for the civil war could be a chance to explore its legacy and maybe - just maybe we can increase the peace.

Someone else mentioned a candle light vigil, which is a good place to start because each person can remember who they choose and honor lives lost - I'd be up for that...

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