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Peace — Fourth of July 2013

Peace--Fourth of July, 1865. Harper's Weekly.

Peace–Fourth of July, 1865. Harper’s Weekly.

After four long years of war, the July 8, 1865 edition of Harper’s Weekly marked the first fourth of July since the outbreak of hostilities between North and South. The cover image titled “Peace — Fourth of July 1865” is a woodcut engraving portraying an Angel (Peace) escorting Civil War soldiers home, as evidenced by the soldiers reunited with loved ones in the foreground. The returning soldiers appear as comrades, with arms linked and there are few clues to identify them as Union or Confederate. Peace carries both a olive branch and a sheaf of wheat. The sheaf of wheat and the soldier in the right foreground with a cow suggest the nation’s renewed purpose: four long years of struggle have ended and the nation looks toward rebuilding. The plow takes the place of the rifle, the citizen soldier returns to the farm.

Like July 4, 1865, this Independence Day marks the celebration of our nation’s founding after another long period of war. Of course, the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan differ dramatically from the Civil War. In terms of tactics, weapons, purpose, personnel, and their influence on the collective American consciousness, these struggles could not be more different. In one significant way, these wars and all wars are similar: all conflicts create veterans in need of a nation’s support. For many veterans, well-intentioned words of thanks from civilians ring hollow. A simple Google image search for “fourth of July” supplies one possible explanation. While the Civil War generation expressly acknowledged the significance of veteran’s homecomings, the image search reveals the most popular results are fireworks, American flags, patriotic desserts, and small children and old people decked out in red, white, and blue. There is an option to select “Military” themed results which presents a collection of soldiers in uniform, military vehicles and American flags, graphics and signs celebrating sacrifice for freedom, and a nearly equal number of fireworks, occasionally silhouetting a tank. There is little sense of the destruction, physical and emotional, behind the waving flags and colorful explosions. In a nation where twenty-two veterans ends their lives through suicide each day, we need to do better.

The challenge of the Fourth of July is to simultaneously celebrate the founding of this unique nation, recognize that the struggle for freedom is an ongoing process, acknowledge the dark side of national glory, and find ways to assist those struggling for freedom and coping with the aftermath of war. The Civil War generation did not have all the answers for combining support for returning soldiers with national pride, but the themes of peace, friendship, family, and work in the Harper’s Weekly illustration provide a starting point. One of our Khronikos bloggers, Joseph Miller, confronts these issues both in his scholarship and in his personal life. As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day tomorrow, we encourage you to consider these issues in the past and in the present through a collection of Miller’s posts.

Warfare and Trauma in the Early American Republic: The Dual Life of William Hull

williamhullWilliam Hull was the obvious choice to command the Northwest Army’s invasion of Upper Canada during the War of 1812 because of his heroic service during the American Revolution. George Washington personally took action to promote Hull more expediently, but the campaign of the Northwest Army was so unsuccessful, culminating in General Isaac Brock’s triumph at the Battle of Detroit, that Hull was tried and convicted for cowardice, neglect of duty, and unofficer-like conduct. Madison latter commuted his punishment without acquitting him of guilt.

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Defining the Illness of James Miller

MillerJ_GovPort_fOne of the daunting tasks necessary to describe the life of James Miller is defining his illness both in the terms of his own understanding and the definitions of similar illnesses used by contemporary medical professionals. Miller called his illness “the ague” and characterized it as long standing illness, a “a slow bilious fever.” The illness plagued and incapacitated him, “Very few deaths occur by disease, but people remain weak and fit for nothing for a long time.” Miller’s definition of persistent fever is more inclusive of mental factors than twentieth century divisions between mental and physical illnesses. Miller’s ague  represented a medical ideology regarding constitutional illnesses. Further, medical definitions of the ague during Miller’s time recognized the illness as both physical and mental.

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The Salem Custom-House as Repository for Veterans: Insights for Early Modern PTSD in the Writing of Nathaniel Hawthorne

Salem Custom-House

Warfare may always be judged pejoratively because of the degeneracy of violence. Nathanial Hawthorne’s inclusion of an early 19th century Salem Massachusetts Custom-House as an introduction to his 17th century tale about witchcraft offers an intriguing interpretation of the lives of veterans. One theme central to The Scarlet Letter relates to how individuals act honorably within an ignoble world. His inclusion of the Custom-House accomplishes two significant purposes. One, C. Green described the work as “A Symbolic Journey Through Darkness to Enlightenment,” and the discovery of Hester Prynne provided a mechanism of escape. Two, its positive portrayals of veterans despite their absenteeism, related to the collection of customs, recognized the negative affect war made on their souls, and the fact the Custom-House became a repository for aging veterans.

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The Historicity of Bilbo Baggins: A Critical View of Psychologists and Jingoism

tolkeinJ. R. R. Tolkien was an outspoken critic of a young intellectual discipline of psychology. His stories were often criticized because their setting in the fantasy world of middle earth ignored the world that Tolkien lived in. This view ignores the parallels between his characters and his own life. It also ignores the fact that the heroes of his tales, Hobbits of small stature that lacked physical courage, challenged the notions of ”Social Darwinism.”  This ideology dominated British jingoism and the early profession of psychology. His two heroes Bilbo and Frodo Baggins challenged archetypes of masculinity while criticizing nationalists that attempted to subsume or overtake other cultures. The Hobbits fought for other homelands because of their attachment to the shire.

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Image Credits:

Peace–Fourth of July, 1865. Harper’s weekly, 1865 July 8. Library of Congress.

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