What they’ve done to the War Between the States

Scott describes the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities given at the Kennedy Center. Harvard President Faust took up “Telling war stories: Reflections of a Civil War historian.”

What Faust gives us in this lecture is a jejune and clichéd postmodern take on war generally and the Civil War specifically — war drained of genuine meaning and rendered as meaningless horror. “War stories” can supply the meaning of meaningless “violence” and “fighting.”

It is part and parcel of the racism shown in such things as Nevada deciding to honor Juneteenth. A political expedient to attempt an earlier end to a horrific conflict has been turned into a celebrated cause in its own right. Meanwhile, the actual reasons for the conflict are sent to the background as curiosities, if that. War becomes only its expression and nothing more.

Faust’s lecture, however, is not completely worthless. It provides grounds for thinking about, maybe even thinking through, the problematic nature of “ongoing self-consciousness” when the chips are down.

Meanwhile, there is the peaceful approach to schoolyard bullying and the denigration of those who attempt to protect themselves that has to find some congruence with taking out bin Laden in another country’s territory.

There are reasons people fight wars and it is not blood lust. People studying the humanities should be expected to have a better grounding into human motivations and behavior than to assert such things – or is it maybe that they seek what they want to be rather than what is?

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