Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Funnel of Death, in Perspective

Bloody Angle

The Bloody Angle: Photo by Demosophist, September 2003

The next day, I stood in a tiny rut, a small bend in a shallow, grassy berm, where for sixteen hours men cursed and killed each other at point-blank range, where musket balls flew so furiously that they cut down a foot-thick oak tree. Here, at the Bloody Angle of Spotsylvania, the fighting was hand-to-hand from the break of dawn to almost midnight; uninterrupted horror that to this day remains for me the most appalling single acre in human history. There, on that unassuming, peaceful, empty field – it might as well have been the back of a high school -- men had become so agitated that they climbed the muddy, blood-slick trenches, clawed their way to the parapets to shoot at a man a foot or two away, then hurled their bayoneted muskets like a javelin into the crowd before being shot down and replaced by other half-mad, raving automatons.

What trick of time and memory, what charm or spell does history possess, that can turn such fields of unremitting violence and terror into places of religious awe and wonder? Why are some people called to these places, in America and around the world, to stand in wonder – not only at the brutality of war, but at the transcendental, ennobling power of them? How does slaughter and death turn into nobility and sacrifice? Why can we recite the names of places like Roanoke, Harrisburg, Phoenixville, Marseille, Kiev, Vanuatu and Johannesburg with no more passion than we muster while reading the ingredients on the back of a cereal box, while names like Antietam, Gettysburg, Valley Forge, Verdun, Stalingrad, Guadalcanal and Rorke’s Drift thunder through time as if the earth itself were being rung like a bell? -- (from Bill Whittle's History)

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia, Anticipatory Retaliation and The Jawa Report)