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Back You are here: Home Columns Columns Allyn Hunt War breeds myths for both sides

War breeds myths for both sides

This article is being started on February 12, Lincoln’s birthday.  It registers comments by U.S. readers uneasy with recent columns about America’s Civil War (1861-1865).   All nations, and sections of nations, live in some part on a past of legends of bravery in the face of great odds – and on sorrow, too.  All regions possess such myths, cherish them and commemorate them.  Some are fiercely local, some even familial.  And despite this time when the lazy habit of dismissing history is popular, people still live with and by myth.  Nowhere is that more true than Mexico, despite the “modern” inclination to display fashionable historical indifference. 

And within America, few regions equal the South for its reverence for its glorious past and the emotional potency of a hard heritage.  All countries, nations, regions even long-lasting families do too.  Legends, myths, even past pieces of our own lives, are what help us deal with the world, our circumstances, and the challenges.

But many myths are built around tragedy as well as triumph.  This is wounding because it is destructive, and it is destructive because it’s so often based on hate.  Any comprehensive analysis of why this is true would take many pages.

But that this remains true was demonstrated by legislators during the confirmation hearings of the last two appointed supreme justices, both women: Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, one Jewish, one Hispanic.  Such twisted ethnic spasms were expected of course.  But many people – well, men, certainly – were surprised by Congress’ virulent gender-wide prejudice against women.  But everyone everywhere was convinced of it when this peculiar disease was lavishly illustrated in the presidential election just past – an embarrassing exercise for U.S. culture and for national prestige.  And despite the present campaign by the political perpetrators to tone down pejorative rhetoric and boost a “positive” political vocabulary – at least in major speeches and campaigns – the same code words are used to denigrate opponents, and sectors of society that wealthy legislators privately, but obviously, loathe. 

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