Monday, December 17, 2007

A battle not forgotten

Yesterday, after I got Dori home from the hospital (big yahoo), I went for my first run in more than a week. Those who know some history know we Nashvillians live where one of the most decisive battles of the Civil War was fought. The Union routed the Confederacy on Dec. 15-16, 1864, with the culmination coming the afternoon of the 16th on the hallowed grounds of Shy's Hill, which Union forces overran around 4 p.m.

That's precisely the time I went running yesterday - the foot of Shy's Hill in my neighborhood. Most of the streets are named after generals or captains from the battle. Thousands died here or near here. We have pulled bullets, shrapnel, musket balls and belt buckles from our yard, as have many of our neighbors in theirs. The bloodiness of that day seems so surreal, like my run in frigid conditions yesterday. It was such a peaceful day, in stark contrast to that chaotic day 143 years ago. Here's a link or two about the battle.

Kathryn and Will enjoy hiking with me occasionally to the peak of Shy's Hill, which has been preserved somewhat by an area society. The kids ask questions about the battle and war in general, like, "Why do people fight, Dad?" They were aware all week of the pending anniversary of the battle, which we talked about several times. Kathryn also asked about the evil of Nazi Germany the other day. I am proud they have taken an interest to history.

I am troubled by how little many people know about our nation's history, my favorite subject in school and favorite reading topic today. Around eighth grade, I stopped whining about history. By my senior year, I liked it. By the time I entered the Navy (and dried out from college), I loved it. Doris Kearns Goodwin's book "Team of Rivals" about Lincoln's cabinet is my most recent read. I haven't had much time this year to read a good book, but I look forward to pounding a few in 2008. I so wish our schools (and parents) would encourage more reading early and often in kids' lives. Many kids today know little about civics and our past.

I have to share something that's been on my mind the last week ... I am disheartened by how inconsiderate many folks have become. Today's Nashville isn't the genteel Nashville of 10 or 20 years ago. I'm dismayed by prevalent anger and selfishness, which I see or experience every day in my life. For example, my drive to and from work has become a farce. The road rage and NASCAR me-first mentality is out of control. Some drivers trail your back bumper so close, you often can't see their front bumper, just their mug yapping on their cell phone or looking angrily at you for making their drive 30 seconds longer.

Overall, I'm an NPR-Public Television kinda guy. I like the news without an edge, like the show Frontline on PBS. That said, I will listen to some sports talk. More and more, I have to turn it off because it's less about analysis and information and more about whining and yelling. Occasionally, I think, "Is that what we fought those wars for ... to behave like this?" I hope not.

Whenever I find myself dismayed, I come back to realizing how fortunate I am ... I have a great wife and kids, family, job and life. I know thousands of people I like and respect (yes, some of them probably trail bumpers by only a few feet at high speeds in heavy traffic). I'm really in control of one thing ... me ... and that's enough to worry about.

All in all, I'm one heckuva lucky spud on this earth, living one day at a time like the rest of us.

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