Sunday, November 18, 2007

Not what I expected

One of the odd side-effects of this NaNoWriMo mess I'm in is that I'm thinking a lot about war and battles and how they work. Seriously, I'm thinking of the battle choreography. And it's really, really hard to envision it, to have any clue if my protagonist was surrounded by people or not when he got wounded. Even after seeing the very spot, or very nearly, I'm still stumped.

I've never been a war buff. And not really much of a history buff. But that's not to say I'm not interested in history. Every time I visit Mud Island River Park, I read the informational signage, much of which includes Civil War information. I've read a few historical novels in my day, and I never hated history classes. And, well, fair enough, I was an art history major, too, but I was really most interested in contemporary feminist art those days, so really no reason to see a future interest in the Civil War.

But another side-effect, one I was discussing with my mom this afternoon, is that, the more I think about that war, it just makes me more certain that war is futile. Arbitrary. Let's put a bunch of young men in outfits, give them guns, and whoever kills the most of the other team gets to say their side wins, and that's how decisions will be made on a national (or global) basis. And looking at all those graves, all those boys and men dead just from one battle (and plenty of the dead from that battle aren't buried where I was...this cemetery only included the Confederate troops).

I just keep imagining how discouraged these guys had to be at that point. Okay, in all honesty, I don't really have to imagine this. The family letters make it clear. Of the three cousins who were in the same company, one of them, George, was a very observant and expressive writer. He made it so clear that, after nearly two years in this ugly, ugly war, he didn't really know what they were fighting for anymore.

Keeping in mind that these guys were from mid-state Missouri, it must have been a huge culture shock to wind up in middle Mississippi. The role of slavery was vastly different in Missouri (yes, these folks did own slaves) than it was in Mississippi, where plantations frequently had over 1,000 slaves per household. Fighting for King Cotton must have been a slap in the face for these apple and hemp farmers.

Not sure what I'm doing with this. But I'm agitated and just hate that, a century and a half later, we still send teenage boys and young men to shoot and be shot, thinking that's a reasonable way to decide world events. Insert some cliche about not learning history and being doomed to repeat it.

I've got a novel to write. Peace out.