Last Friday marked the 156th anniversary of Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendering his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. The surrender at the Appomattox, Virginia courthouse marked the end of what some have called the bloodiest conflict in American history.
I've been by that site many times, although the original courthouse is no longer standing and has been replaced by a replica. I was a publisher in eastern Virginia for a time, and the rich Civil War history in that area is everywhere you look. I've been to Grant's headquarters on the James and Appomattox River that sits at City Point. It's a stone's throw from Appomattox Manor, a house formerly owned by Dr. Richard Eppes, which sits in plain site of the small shack Grant used to make his battle plans.
When I was in that part of the country, I visited the battlefields. I took the drive through the Petersburg National Battlefield and I imagined the harrowing battles, the screams, the thunder of the canons and the exploding of the black powder rifles. I thought about the looks of desperation on soldiers’ faces as they tried to reload their firearms before being fired upon.
My wife, Angela, and I have also been to several battlefield parks in western Kentucky and Tennessee. We're not Civil War buffs, but we do love history. The feeling is always the same. When I go into a park, I imagine what it could've been like in the early mornings for soldiers and if they wondered what they would face that day. I think about how they had to live, how horrible it must've been not be with their families. There were times when there was no traffic in the parks and the silence is almost unnerving. To say it was a stain in our history seems to me that it downplays the true scar and residual effect that it has left on us. A visit to Appomattox along with other battlefields and historic sites may not put it all in perspective, but perhaps it creates some measure of awareness.
The feeling of remorse and the questions that permeate my mind of why this awful war had to be fought comes back to my mind from time-to-time. Historians never agree entirely and maybe you're reading this and possibly have formed an opinion.
Have you ever heard the adage that the song remembers when? Events also trigger my thought process at times and this week was one of those circumstances.
You can't watch the news without seeing a police shooting somewhere in the country with narratives being spun to further the argument of whoever is trying to beat the next news cycle. We're never going to fully agree on a circumstance of an event like a police shooting or a school shooting or anything of that order; trying to pitch my opinion would only be met with differences of opinion and spouting opinions can be counterproductive.
As far as police shootings – some suggest that officers should be further trained or reformed. Others declare racism is involved. Why does something as simple as a traffic stop become heightened to the point of tragedy for all parties involved? Should men and women just comply and these circumstances wouldn't get out of hand? Why don't they?
I fear the pertinent questions will never be answered because the news cycles need sensationalism to capture followers. That sensationalism fuels arguments and creates issues for future encounters and nothing gets resolved.
My heart goes out to all involved every time there is a tragedy. The latest shooting in Minnesota has a mother losing her son and the officer's life is also ruined because of a misuse of a weapon. I would hate to have to live with that on either side of the circumstance.
How do we fix this? I have zero answers, but there's one thing I do have and that's the feeling I always get driving through a lonely battlefield. It's a deep pitted feeling that leaves a person feeling powerless, in that, we can't push a back button like we do on our phone or computer and prevent events from happening.
It does, however, bring up the same question. Why do we keep fighting this war?
Mike Davis is the publisher of the Murray Ledger & Times. He may be reached at email@example.com.
Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of the Murray Ledger & Times.