More on immortals

strangeadventures198A couple of weeks back, I posted a link to and discussed John Rogers’ blog post on immortality. His basic point being that a world of immortality would be one in which nothing is forgotten and old issues never die. Case in point, “wasn’t it a little goddam tiring in the 2000 election to still be refighting the 32-year old Vietnam War records of the two candidates for the US presidency? Now imagine it was the Civil War.”
This example does not prove his case. All it really proves is that Vietnam was an anomaly.
As David Blight shows in Race and Reunion, by the end of the 19th century, the “meaning” of the Civil War was solidifying, and that meaning was that everyone involved had been noble soldiers, fighting for their rights and their homeland, and that as they were all American brothers, they could come together, reunite and salve the wounds. Thinking about slavery and its role in the conflict was too uncomfortable and posed too many challenges; easier by far to go with the myth and let Jim Crow lie.
So I doubt someone (specifically a white someone) from the Civil War would be carrying around huge grudges into the 20th century. He’d undoubtedly freak out at the civil-rights movement, but whites who were born long after the Civil War freaked out enough—I doubt it would have been worse.
A black guy, however? He might carry a lot of grudges when he saw how the end of slavery often meant just slavery by another name. So it’s not like Rogers’ thesis is completely wrong, but it’s not completely right (and as far as fiction goes, I’d have no problem accepting his view as a premise).
As to Vietnam, like I said it was an exception. Not more traumatic than the Civil War, but certainly the most controversial war of the last century. And the dispute over Kerry’s war record wasn’t the result of old farts clinging to issues (though we certainly do get that in politics), it was the work of an aggressive right-wing campaign. Jerome Corsi, who wrote the book questioning Kerry’s war record, was a Republican operative dating back to the Nixon era (when he’d gone up against Kerry and the other anti-war veterans for the first time). It’s not about the scars Vietnam placed on people, any more than the Birthers are about the scars from the 1960s.
I sometimes wonder if we don’t make a big fuss about generational/age differences simply because it’s something we’re familiar with: Everyone’s dealt with older and younger people so it’s easy to see that as a defining characteristic (like arguments that an age gap between couples poses an ineradicable cultural difference rather than just one more way two people have different life experiences). But I don’t think it’s any bigger a cultural gap than moving to another country, or even within the country (the cultural range of experiences just in the US is pretty wide), it’s just the gap we deal with most.
(Cover by Jack Sparling, rights belong to current holder)

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