Thursday, December 02, 2010

Oregon's "Civil War"

Here in Oregon the annual football game between the University of Oregon and Oregon State University is referred to at "the Civil War." This year it happens this Saturday.

I'm not sure why, but I've always found this offensive.

620,000 Americans died in the (real) Civil War. (So horrible was this war that more were killed than wounded.)

If the same happened today, the equivalent number would be over 6 million. That's impossible to even imagine.

Of course, Oregon barely existed during the real Civil War. It got statehood in 1859, and had a "whites only" clause in its state Constitution. Some of its men went east to fight, but Oregon saw little-to-no blood.

Maybe it's because I grew up in Pennsylvania, but the Civil War was always big in my mind. I probably went to Gettysburg six times by the time I was 15, on various field trips or vacations, and each time (it seemed) we'd go to the the theater-in-the-round and see the electronic map of the battle and then go see Little Round Top and the field where Pickett's charge took place. I still remember an exhibit in a Gettysburg museum of two bullets that met in mid-air and fused together. Can you even imagine?

If I believed in reincarnation I'd swear I was killed behind a certain stone wall in Devil's Den.

Anyway, the Civil War seemed real to me. But I don't get the impression here that it seems very real here. So it's easy to name a football game for it. Lots of states have competing universities who are rivals on the field. But no one else thinks it's the Civil War. I think Oregon is treating a terrible tragedy too cavalierly, and usurping something they didn't earn.

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