". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Monday, May 30, 2011

"Cardiogram of the Confederate Nation"

Black Union soldiers, women, children and ministers from war-smashed Charleston S.C., created Memorial Day, as David Blight describes on the second screen/page of "Forgetting Why We Remember", the lead Op-ed article from today's NY Times.  But I the following from the first page, because it goes better with the subject matter of the second op-ed piece in today's NY Times, the Disunion column, described after Blight's article.
"Memorial Days were initially occasions of sacred bereavement, and from the war’s end to the early 20th century they helped forge national reconciliation around soldierly sacrifice, regardless of cause. In North and South, orators and participants frequently called Memorial Day an “American All Saints Day,” likening it to the European Catholic tradition of whole towns marching to churchyards to honor dead loved ones.

But the ritual quickly became the tool of partisan memory as well, at least through the violent Reconstruction years. In the South, Memorial Day was a means of confronting the Confederacy’s defeat but without repudiating its cause. Some Southern orators stressed Christian notions of noble sacrifice. Others, however, used the ritual for Confederate vindication and renewed assertions of white supremacy. Blacks had a place in this Confederate narrative, but only as time-warped loyal slaves who were supposed to remain frozen in the past.

The Lost Cause tradition thrived in Confederate Memorial Day rhetoric; the Southern dead were honored as the true “patriots,” defenders of their homeland, sovereign rights, a natural racial order and a “cause” that had been overwhelmed by “numbers and resources” but never defeated on battlefields.
"Of Monsters, Men — And Topic Modeling" by Robert K Nelson, is the latest Disunion column on the Civil War in the New York Times.
"....“topic modeling” allows us to understand in far greater detail the arguments and appeals that were used throughout the war to convince men to join the army, engaging in the morally difficult task of killing other men, and accepting the terrifying prospect of being killed themselves."
The two forms most employed were patriotic and poetic appeals in which death in service to the cause was described as glorious, bringing immortality, and the diatribes against the North as being monsters, not even true men, certainly not true Americans like the southerners since they were all deformed immigrants [mighty ironic that, since so many in the south were Scots, Irish and Scots-Irish] from ungodly shores, certainly not Christian, so it was right and just and glorious to kill them.

Informative graphs accompany the column.

It would, however, be more informative and interesting to see the results of text-modeling applied to Union paper of record of the era, like the New York Times.

Still, text-modeling is a marvelous new tool in the scholar's money bag, making possible a survey of large amounts of text in a very short time, that we've not been able to perform before.
Memorial Day, you all ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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