The Most Painful Episode of the January 6 Insurrection
, 2022-09-17 04:13:02,
I am a white male historian of the Civil War raised in the American South. At a preternatural age, I managed with misguided pride to memorize the back-of-the-baseball-card version of that war. I knew how many died at Shiloh on which side, on which day. I could recite with indecent precision which regiments suffered what losses on which day at Gettysburg. I knew that slavery caused the war—but I managed not to focus on that fact. I was too focused on war as a man’s calling. Rambo II sent me to a local knife and gun shop where—not yet old enough to drive and too young to buy anything—I childishly cut my thumb and manfully bled all over the store. The Army recruiting station set up outside The Hunt for Red October almost made me join up. God help me, I collected Desert Storm trading cards.
Gradually and by degrees, I became a student not just of the Civil War but of war itself. Lessons I should have learned from teachers—who were still teaching Americanism vs. Communism—I had to learn on my own.
As hearings resume into the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol; as more and more Americans embrace violent threats, violent allusions, and violence itself as a way to resolve political disputes; as more and more Americans embrace disunion and a once-democratic country threatens to tear itself apart, I feel more than ever compelled to look backward, not merely on my country’s epic journey, but on my own.
My perspective comes from a particular place, and I own it from the outset. I grew up a Florida boy—a “Florida man” in training. Sandspurs, bull thorns, and cockroaches were once my great nemeses; Slurpees, disc golf, and flippy shoes were once my great compensations. Coming of age in South Florida public schools, all of my early friends were Black, but I didn’t see it that way. We were just kids playing kickball on scorched sand, avoiding like the plague the playground “tower” where a 13-year-old had supposedly hanged himself. We knew that race was a thing, but racism belonged to the adult world, looming on the horizon like puberty and lost innocence. Racially we existed “before…
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