July 09, 2015

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Now, 50 years further on, we”€™ll get images of Pluto. And that’s it for the traditional ennead of planets. (Don”€™t get me started on the demotion of Pluto.) There”€™ll be no more major surprises from planetary imaging: unless, as predicted by Koestler“€”a Hungarian nationalist, at least in matters of cuisine”€”Jupiter’s Great Red Spot turns out to be a paprika mine.

Taboos of the time. Here on Taki’s Magazine I wondered aloud whether there is a book on the Civil War comparable to Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory, which brilliantly traces the effects of WWI on literature and the imagination. A reader recommended James McPherson’s The War That Forged a Nation, so I got a copy and read it.

Not bad, although McPherson’s approach is quite different from Fussell’s. I particularly liked the chapter on Reconstruction, a period almost as fascinating as the war itself, and much less well studied. As with Gene Dattel’s book on cotton, you can”€™t help but notice how very little interest Northerners had in the fortunes of blacks, whom they mainly wanted to just stay in the South.

Northern patience snapped altogether in 1874″€“5 as Philip Sheridan ramped up his campaign against the Southern White Leagues.

“€œPeople are becoming tired of…abstract questions in which the overwhelming majority of them have no direct interest,”€ declared the leading Republican newspaper in Washington in 1874. “€œThe Negro question, with all its complications, and the reconstruction of the Southern States, with all its interminable embroilments, have lost much of the power they once wielded.”€ A Republican politician commented even more bluntly the following year that “€œthe truth is that our people are tired of this worn out cry of “€˜Southern outrages”€™!!! Hard times and heavy taxes make them wish the “€˜nigger,”€™ “€˜everlasting nigger,”€™ were in _____ or Africa.”€

The Republicans, remember, were Lincoln’s party, the party of abolition.

Interesting to note that newspapers in 1875 would print the word “€œnigger”€ but not “€œhell.”€ Every age has its peculiar taboos.

Veterans? Visiting those Civil War battlefields in June, I noticed how old most visitors are, once you subtract out the school parties.

So here’s my question. When”€”it must occasionally happen”€”some geezer falls off his perch while at the Gettysburg Visitor Center, or while clambering among the rocks on Little Round Top, do his loved ones then boast that: “€œMy husband/father/grandpa/buddy died at Gettysburg”€?


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