A Conversation for Henry Wirz and the Andersonville Trial

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Post 1

aka Bel - A87832164

Fascinating account, thanks for writing it. smiley - smiley


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Post 2

Dmitri Gheorgheni - Freshly Vaccinated

Thank you.smiley - smiley


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Post 3

lil ~ Auntie Giggles with added login ~ returned


Bel says it all! smiley - applause


smiley - biggrin


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Post 4

Willem

I appreciated this entry very much Dmitri!

Yet another reminder of the horror of war. It does indeed seem that Wirz was scapegoated. Certainly seems as if the Northern war-prisons were no better than the Southern ones, but they were OK because they were on the 'right side'. This sort of thing keeps happening. It is atrocious if 'the enemy' should do to *us* the kind of things that are justified if we do it to *them*.

This reminds me very much of the concentration camp system here in South Africa during the Boer Wars. There the 'civilised' British interred Boer women and children of whom 26 000 died in about a year, from disease and hunger because the British camps, as well, didn't have the supplies to tend to all those people. That photo of the emaciated soldier at Andersonville reminded me of this photo of a girl in a concentration camp:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:LizzieVanZyl.jpg

These people were living comfortably on their farms until the British came and destroyed their livelihoods and herded them into these dismal camps so as to undermine the efforts of the Afrikaans fighters.

As far as I know, no British camp commanders were charged or executed as a result of any deaths in those camps.


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Post 5

Dmitri Gheorgheni - Freshly Vaccinated

You're right, Willem - it's like that. smiley - sadface

No human suffering should be relativised due to a political agenda. Every child, every adult, has the same right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. John Locke was right, so there.

The situation of the prisoners of war during the Civil War was caused by the fact that the war technology was far ahead of anything they had previously understood. They just couldn't deal with the scale of the misery they created. During the Revolutionary War, more American soldiers died in British hulks than fighting. (The Americans mostly paroled the British soldiers to local farmers - in that case, they had what Bernard Williams calls 'moral luck'.)

Another thing that people don't realise about American history is that every war fought on this soil was indescribably vicious. It gets sanitised in the telling. Try reading David Crockett's memoir - available free online.

The last couple of weeks, I've been doing history lesson rewrites involving, among other things, Pontiac's Rebellion.

Nobody has time to think about these things - but during that border war, some awful things happened:

- The Iroquois ritually cannibalised a British soldier. (Their allies, the Delaware, were horrified.)
- People got scalped (by people on both sides!)
- A British commander ordered his troops to infect the enemy with smallpox - and they did.
- Indians who had nothing to do with the fighting were attacked and killed hundreds of miles away, just because they were Indians.

Benjamin Franklin expressed outrage at the idea that anybody would kill harmless people just because they were Indians. But then, Benjamin Franklin, otherwise a true Enlightenment hero, was appallingly unfair to his own son, who remained loyal to the British during the Revolution. (Among other things, he let William languish in prison at great physical suffering, and refused to let the others show him mercy when his wife lay dying.)

Until we learn to see these things in perspective, we won't be fully aware as a species.


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Post 6

Willem

Hi there again Dmitri! I'm going to see if I can find Davy Crockett's journals ... they must be interesting reading.

This about technology increasing the horror of war is very relevant indeed. I am still wondering about this. We seem to have avoided nuclear holocaust, for now ... but I stil wonder, if technology - and the POWER brought by that - keeps on 'progressing', *without* concomitant 'progress' in the field of human nature - I mean things like compassion, consideration, responsibility, foresight, and humility - where are we headed?

Very interesting that atrocities one would more associate with the Nazis have been done *by* Americans *to* Americans. Perhaps not on the same scale, but still. This 'awareness' you speak of ... is very important. Because *without* it ... we are thinking 'we' can never do these things; 'they' do these things - 'they' are barbarians and should be wiped out!

What happens when you realise your own people also have the potential for brutality, for barbaric deeds, for atrocities, that you associate with your 'enemy'?

I've come to this point, with all the stuff that's been happening in my country. The pressing need right now is that humans should acknowledge our own 'dark side' without making it a property exclusively of 'the other'. Simultaneously we must also realise that we are not powerless against OUR OWN dark side. We can be better. But we need to face the dark side, not ignore it. We must stop trying to fight evil WITH evil.

Once our eyes become fully open to the 'Dark Side' ... we realise what an enormous way we still have to go. We can become despondent ... or we can realise that an incredible amount of progress can, indeed, be made, and we must relish the thought of making every little bit of that progress.

I still look forward to the day we have a universal brother-and-sisterhood of all humanity and in fact of all sentient beings in the Cosmos.


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Post 7

Elektragheorgheni

You are right Willem. Perhaps art can lead the way by transforming our appreciation of the situation. Being kind and nice should be the new cool thing!Don´t know how this marketing coupe can be accomplished
though.People shouldn´t insist on their wants and desires to the exclusion of other people getting theirs as well.


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Post 8

Dmitri Gheorgheni - Freshly Vaccinated

Amen, Willem. You've hit the nail on the head - something is very much out of order. Sometimes I think humans are like the monkey with the clock - technologically advanced and clueless.

The other day, I was faced with a problem in my history lesson: I had to explain why the Iroquois practised ritual cannibalism. Now, the problem is that some poor schoolchild might think we were picking on his ancestors, calling them barbarians. Nope. Not when you remember that about the same time, there was a war in North Carolina against the Tuscaroras - a war so fierce that the Tuscaroras fled to upstate New York and joined the Iroquois.

Virginia didn't want to help North Carolina, so they just placed a 20-pound bounty on Tuscarora *scalps*. Yep, scalps. White people who supposedly knew better went hunting their fellow humans...for money.

ALL of us are descended from cannibals. Some of my ancestors were really nice people. I have some info on that, and that's nice to know. Some of them were not - a somehow-great-uncle of mine was hanged for murder, they tell me, and further back, there were some nasty domestic terrorists who burned down the colonial courthouse. (Very irritating of them, as that interferes with documentary research.) One great-great-great grandfather was a preacher, a good man. One was a moonshiner - although they say he was an honest one.smiley - winkeye

'And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.' - James 3:18

Meanness is meanness, goodness is goodness, no matter whose side it's on. So let's lay claim to the good guys, and try to talk the others out of fussing. And let's remember the victims - the poor soldiers who died in all the prison camps of all the wars, the Boers, the Armenians, the victims of the Irish Famine...because we know there are so many crimes this species has committed that may never be known about.

I solve the problem by talking about all of it - and letting the chips fall where they may. Last night, I wanted to write about the problems of kids during the Revolutionary War. I needed an example, so I chose to tell about Andrew Jackson, the son of Ulster immigrants who was orphaned at an early age and mistreated by the British army. Now, I don't *like* Andrew Jackson - he grew up to become a mass murderer. But that was his story.

If you want to read about David Crockett, I've got a guide entry that hasn't got to the front page yet - it's at A61686345. There's a link to his memoirs on the bottom of the page.




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Post 9

Willem

First of all, I've read your Davy Crockett piece and enjoyed it ... even here in South Africa we knew the song ... 'Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee' smiley - musicalnote ... never mind we didn't have much of a clue where Tennessee was!

And I downloaded me the Davy Crockett memoirs ... will be reading it in time.

Human ego is such a thing! Or should I say, pride? Or arrogance? The word 'ego' is actually neutral though some folks think it's derogatory, but old Freud didn't mean it that way. He meant it as a perfectly normal and necessary part of the human psyche. Then there's 'pride' ... some people consider it positive, some negative. 'Arrogance' is negative. But all three comes down to wanting to feel good about one's self ... and everything related to one's self, such as one's 'people', one's ancestors, and so forth.

Like I sort of implied in my previous posting ... I think it is necessary for people to become 'stripped' of illusions about one's self and one's 'people' ... the sort of illusions that would attribute the good but deny the bad. Carl Gustav Jung spoke about the 'Shadow', the 'dark side' of the individual, that I spoke of in the previous posting. The more it is ignored, the darker and more ominous it becomes. Now I extend this to 'peoples' as well. I am very much a 'holist' ... I see all of humanity - all of sentient life - actually all of Life, all of Existence - as bound up into a Whole. So ... in being human, I have a part in all that is good AND all that is bad in all of humanity.

When we speak of 'ancestors' ... we might mention that if we go back far enough in time - and that is not very far actually - all humans share an ancestry. All of us came from Africa ... all come from 'African Eve' who lived about 200 000 years ago, and our ancestors left Africa about 60 000 years ago (at least, as is thought by anthropoligist at this moment). Compared to the existence of 'modern' humans that may seem long, but compared to the age of the Earth it's a heartbeat.

But anyways. We are all related. We are all connected. The majority of our ancestry is shared by all of us. We all have ancestors who have committed atrocities and we all have ancestors that have done glorious deeds. We must acknowledge the weaknesses inherent in being human. Change the weaknesses that we can, and accept the ones we can't ... and perhaps, in a humble spirit, modify some of our dreams and aspirations. The ones that can cause trouble for us all if - and when - they get out of control.

You're fortunate in being able to write history lectures! I would love to be able to 'teach' people through writing. What I'm doing over here is, I hope, of some use ... I finished the dwarf crocodile entry, and it's been accepted! It's here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/plain/A64268977


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Post 10

Willem

Sorry I misspelled anthropoligists!


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Post 11

Willem

Sorry I misspelled anthropologists!


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Post 12

Dmitri Gheorgheni - Freshly Vaccinated

smiley - cool entry, Willem.smiley - biggrin Elektra is over here saying, "Yikes! Six feet long!" (She's nervous about the crocodiles, but I agree, they're *cute*.)

And Amen to all that you have said.

I have just been writing a page about where our surnames come from. And I wanted to mention Alex Haley's research. (I'm doing a "you are there" about Reconstruction sharecroppers.)

I was surprised and pleased to find out that the Coast Guard had named a cutter for Alex Haley, who was a career Coast Guard man. The ship uses his personal motto: "Find the Good and Praise It".

http://www.kintehaley.org/rootshaleybio.html

What you say about admitting to all the dark places in the heart: I hear you. I call it "inviting the bad fairy". If the picture is not complete, it is inevitably false.

This picture - as complete as we can make it - takes courage to look at. That's why it's hard to do.

Last night, we were watching "Gangs of New York". At the end of the film, the narrator says that people have forgotten them. The characters fade from the screen, which is focussed on a graveyard by the river. You see the skyline of New York City change. First the Brooklyn Bridge appears, then the buildings change. By the time the view is "modern", the gravestones have fallen down.

The irony is that the film was made in the 90s. The last shot includes the World Trade Center. The point is even more powerful now.


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Post 13

Willem

Hi there again Dmitri! It is very interesting what you say about Alex Haley's motto 'Find the Good and Praise it'.

My own people - narrowly conceived that is, meaning us 'Afrikaners' - have a very difficult time with praising! We sure know how to criticise and complain ... but praising just doesn't come naturally to us!

Over here that is a huge problem. Right now for instance the majority of the non-white people in this country still have painful memories of Apartheid. The oppression of the spirit caused by that phase of our history, in the majority of the people of this country, is almost incomprehensibly bad. Non-white people have been made to believe they are nothing and can do nothing. The British as well as the Afrikaners after the Boer wars, basically ignored them and all their problems and aspirations, when making their grand plans.

Even a while ago in this forum I mentioned the concentration camps in which the British put the Boer women and children. Well, they also put black people in concentration camps ... but we have no statistics about how many, or how many of them died ... because neither the British nor the Boers gave a hoot about them! This is an example of human beings just being *ignored* ... perhaps even worse than being regarded as an 'enemy'. An enemy, you at least acknowledge in a way.

Steve Biko was just one man who spoke a lot about this and tried to do what he could to raise the spirits of the non-white people here ... and he was killed for trying to do that. Well at least at that point in history the non-whites were starting to be seen as 'enemies' ... not ignored any more!

OK so by a very traumatic process Apartheid ended. We can be lucky ... it could have been much *more* traumatic. But there's still the 'apartheid of the spirit'. There are still so many black people who have the millstone around their necks of having been considered inferior for so long. These people now want to rise up not just materially - but psychologically and spiritually as well. Feeling to be worth something, to be capable of something.

And now - the new rulers of this country, and the majority of their followers, are ULTRA sensitive towards ANY kind of criticism from white people! As we see it ... they are making mistakes, and causing new problems. So for instance, Thabo Mbeki (our president before Jacob Zuma) for very long denied that AIDS was caused by the MIV virus, and this resulted in lots of people not getting the right treatment with antiretroviral medication. This may have resulted in about 300 000 people dying unnecessarily.

Then also there are ongoing problems with corruption, and a new, small, black 'elite' arising and enriching themselves, while the poor are getting more and poorer, and their problems are not adequately being attended to.

But white people who mention these things are often then called racists - that we don't think black people can lead a country, or even that we don't want the country to succeed! These criticism open up these deep and terrible wounds of the spirit.

The problem will continue ... BECAUSE we still don't know how to praise! Without the balance between praise and criticism ... criticism will turn bitter and engender bitterness!

The psychological damage humans do to each other ... why are we so blind to it?

Back to Alex Haley again who wrote of his ancestry from African slaves ... and also back to the American Civil war which was a lot about the slavery. HOW could humans do that to each other?

I've just read a long article about the 'conquest' of the New World, in an old (early 1970's) encyclopedia. That article mentions the total subjugation - or elimination - of so many of the original peoples of the Americas. Mentions it as if there was nothing at all wrong with it. Mentions the psychological TRAUMA of the native new world peoples when confronted with these ultra-aggressive newcomers with their irresistable technologies. But doesn't go so far as to say there was any problem with this. Mentions the 'Europeanisation' of the New World as if it was a major achievement ... lifting the lands out of barbarism, filling it with people who were much more important than the 'originals' and bringing new cutting-edge technolog and material prosperity to it. The loss of cultures, languages, *peoples* and people ... simply an unavoidable consequence of this 'progress'.

Mentions the 'Christianisation' of the Americas. In the same breath as mentioning slavery. Slavery was the basis of the prosperity of the new colonists. The basis of a strong economy. Whatever brings economical benefits, must be good, right? Slaves were being converted to Christianity - that was good too, right?

How could people who are obviously able to use their minds NOT see the awfulness of all this?

Doesn't the Bible include the commandment 'Thou shalt not Kill'? For every slave who made it to the New World, between three and five died ... either on the journey, or in the wars that were fought in Africa between African peoples so as to capture prisoners that could then be sold to the slavers.

Doesnt' the Bible also feature Jesus' own commandment that one should love one's neighbour as one's self? How would the people who benefited from slavery, have felt if they were in the position of those slaves?

How about the psychological trauma of being ripped away from one's own homeland, one's own people ... to be made a slave in a strange country? To be given a new name, new beliefs even ... to have to speak a new language. To be doomed to a life of subservience over which one has no control whatsoever?

How about the fact that the masters of the slaves had virtual power of life and death over their 'possessions'? How about the fact that many were 'worked' to death, most of them dying within less than ten years of toiling as slaves?

How could we do that to fellow-human beings and call ourselves Christian???????

We must be insane.

I no longer call myself Christian.

This stuff is going on still in different ways. People do the most horrible things to each other ... and see it as good, or necessary, or never even think about it.

How can all this be made good again?

All the best with your ongoing research and writing. I really hope that at some point I could help with making people more aware ...

The problem is that one can see all that 'bad' and become despondent. Once again the bad is so vast one can get stuck and see nothing else. I know some very cynical people. Cynicism can be amazingly destructive. But one needs to work against that! Because ... the is vast GOOD in the world, in humanity, too! Personally ... I find it hard to see the good and praise it ... but it's there! We humans are capable of incredible accomplishments. One thing I always think about, is that we actually managed to land people on the Moon. They said 'We Come in Peace for All Humanity'. What an amazing accomplishment. If we can only manage to have peace for all humanity down here!


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Post 14

Dmitri Gheorgheni - Freshly Vaccinated

Whew. Yes, yes, yes and yes. All of that is true.

Of course it was important for apartheid to end. Of course the new government was going to make horrible mistakes. Mr Mbeki made me want to scream.

And of course it was going to be mind-numbingly difficult to get people to see that criticism is trying to help, not tear down.

Our president. He's black. This is wonderful, finally. But some people can't criticise him because they don't want to upset the applecart, and others try to tear down what he's doing because they can't come out in public and say that they didn't want a black president - because that sort of attitude is no longer tolerated.

We had this great advantage - our country got a remarkably good start back in the late 18th Century. At least, compared to France and South Africa. It was still hair-raising.

Trying to get rid of slavery made such a mess that it created a failed state - the Confederacy - and set this region back into Third World status for 100 years. When I was a kid, people thought we had tails - if you opened your mouth and a Southern accent came out, they thought you were stupid. I found this out the hard way - my parents moved us up North. I had to get ironic or die.

You want to know why it took a civil war to stop slavery? Because all of Europe was heavily invested in cotton. One-half of all people in England owed their jobs to cotton. So, just as here in the South, a small group of very rich people could keep a monstrous system alive - by implicating everybody in that economic system. Cotton was King.

My folks were mountain-dwelling dirt farmers. They had no investment in this system. But when a war started, they mucked in on the side of their region, because they felt threatened from invaders - from the next county. That's civil war for you. It's never about Principle. (Do I understand the Balkans? Lord, yes.)

We have to lift one another up, because answering these questions is never easy. It's hard work, and lacks the thrill of the chase. Taking sides is glamorous. Giving up taking sides, and being part of humanity, is not so glamorous.

But this kind of work is what gets us there.

Things go wrong. Things stay wrong. It's hard to change - but the fight is worth it, even if some days you want to throw something in frustration at them all.

(I kind of suspect that venting is a good idea.)


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