In the ages before Apple invented the letter “I” and when dirt was still new enough to amaze the random student; the United States celebrated the birthday of Christopher Columbus on the day it actually showed up on the calendar. Columbus was not unique in that privilege. We celebrated lots of things on the days they took place. Now that we have decided that three day weekends are of more value than historical accuracy, fewer Americans are aware of the older celebrations. It may come to be that only historians and the odd elitist will recall these things in another generation.
We finished studying the American Civil War in class this morning. After class I drove over to Mountain Home National Cemetery to take some photographs of a friend’s great-grandfather’s grave stone. He’d sent me the location in the grounds so my part was easy.
The older sections of this cemetery are all Civil War veterans. All the markers I saw in the section I was looking for were for troops who fought in Union units. These men were all buried around 1918-19, which makes me wonder if they died in the great influenza pandemic that followed on the heels of WWI. Perhaps my friend knows.
As I pulled up next to the proper section, the front rank contained the carefully tended and specially marked grave stone honoring a CMH winner. I didn’t think to check the back for his birth and death dates so I don’t know when he died. But I suspect that his presence in that section indicates he won the CMH and lived to be awarded his honors. I hope so. That’s a horrible medal to be awarded.
I’d not been on the cemetery grounds here before. There are approximately 12-13000 men and women buried there. The grounds are immaculately tended. Except for such markers as denote a CMH, the grave stones are all white stone, carefully sculpted denoting little but name, rank, branch of service, and time on earth. Some small personalization may be added to more recent markers such as was done with Gloria’s father’s & mother’s common stone. But for the most part, the nation’s servants are equal in death. The broad sweep of white stones across rolling terrain is sobering, and in the case of Civil War era graves, quite saddening. Hundreds of thousands of young men marched off shoulder to shoulder to preserve the Union. Thousands of them simply vanished, consumed in a cannon’s blast of canister, dead of infection caused by a bayonet thrust, dysentery, malaria, starvation in a prison camp, or of some decision to simply vanish on their own into a new name and place. The ones I trod upon today came home or to “old soldiers’ homes” and then were honored with cemeteries of their own.
Next month, on the 11th, we will celebrate “Veterans Day.” More on that later.
I’ll send Dwight the photos tonight when I have internet access. The fine arts building has no access to the campus wifi system. Art, fine-arts, classical music, art-history, along with philosophy, history, English, and other languages are obviously classes that only academics and elitists would ever take. They don’t need wifi. Much more important to have it in a sports complex where the future rulers train.
The rise of the 'ordinary' elite
By Anne Applebaum
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
“In 1958, an English sociologist and Labor Party politician named Michael Young imagined a future in which the British establishment dissolved itself, abolished all forms of hereditary power and created instead a meritocracy (a word Young invented) based on IQ. In Young's fable, the academically talented from the working class happily join the elite. But the less-talented resent them even more than they did the old dukes and duchesses. By 2034, this resentment leads to a violent populist revolution that sweeps the meritocracy away. “
“In America, the end of the meritocracy will probably come about slowly: If working hard, climbing the education ladder and graduating from a good university only wins you opprobrium, then you might not bother. Or if you do bother, then you certainly won't go into politics, where your kind is no longer welcome. We will then have a different sort of elite in charge of the country -- and a different set of reasons to dislike them, too.”