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Monday, March 08, 2010

Civilization

Blue and Gray

Saturday was a beautiful day, and so after the boys finished up their soccer academy time in the town of Manassas, we decided to spend the rest of the day at the Manassas National Battlefield. It's a huge area, rolling hills and farmland, pretty much unchanged since the days of the Civil War. When you stand on the hills and look across the valleys, it is very easy for your mind to fill in the sight of boys in blue and gray, facing off against each other on a sweltering summer day.

The battles fought there were early in the war, and all the reports point to the fact that the troops were green - untested - not battle-weary veterans. My heart had a hard time reading the first-hand accounts of young men, who not very long before the battle spent their days farming, hunting and courting.

It's interesting to me how differently men approach a battlefield than I imagine most women do - how I do. While I'm interested in the history, I don't get a charge out of it like my boys. It makes me so sad, standing on fields where so many young men sacrificed their lives for causes they believed in. Watching my boys choose hats in the gift shop hearkened back to the days when brother truly fought against brother.

Manassas Battlefield


But they thought of it as picking teams - a soccer game with guns and cannon. That is, of course, because they are 8 and 10 years old. They are innocent and naive about war.

They asked me who the good guys were in this war between the states. How do you answer such a thing? All I could say was that there weren't good guys and bad guys in this war, just two groups of people who believed very strongly that they were right, that believed their ideas were right, and that the end result was the result that made us a stronger and better country. "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

One of our last stops on the tour we made was at a Confederate cemetery. Over 200 soldiers were buried there, and only two had been identified, so they were buried by state, in mass graves. It just broke my heart - all those boys, lost to their families, buried on a hilltop overlooking the battlefield that had taken their lives.

I think the challenge for me is to try and balance a boy's love of action, and the idea that war is just another adventure story with the knowledge that war is an ugly and heart-breaking reality that is sometimes necessary to protect a way of life.

Maybe someday it won't be necessary anymore. Maybe someday opposing forces can meet across a conference table and work out differences without firing a shot. Maybe someday folks will be able to see that just because some people have different ideas doesn't mean they need to be eliminated from the planet. Maybe someday...

Until then, my mama's heart will just have to weep whenever I hear of another son or daughter killed in war. It will break when I think of my own children faced with the prospect of defending their country against those who would seek to destroy it. It will shatter at the thought of men and women and children living in fear of oppression and tyranny.

And maybe Papa SmartyPants will have to take over those battlefield trips without me...