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Culture

Is Someone Trying to Blow Up Civil War Reenactors?

(See update below.)

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Is Someone Trying to Blow Up Civil War Reenactors?

A story from outside Washington that deserves more national attention: a reenactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek, of the Civil War, was temporarily interrupted as law enforcement dealt with some sort of explosive device.

Local and federal law enforcement officials declined Sunday to describe the “suspicious item” found at the battlefield here about 4 p.m. Saturday, which prompted law enforcement to evacuate the immediate area. Several re-enactors said they were told it looked like a pipe bomb.

In a statement Sunday, the FBI said that “the device was located during an annual re-enactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek. No persons were harmed and the device was rendered safe by the Virginia State Police.”

Dee Rybiski, an FBI spokeswoman, said Sunday that the bureau “was not elaborating on the device.”

The FBI is investigating the incident, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Virginia State Police; the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office; and the Middletown Police Department.

The battle re-enacted Sunday took place on Oct. 19, 1864, and was a Union victory.

Last week, organizers of the Cedar Creek event posted a warning on the group’s website.

“We would like to make everyone aware that the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation has received a letter threatening bodily harm to attendants of this event,” the foundation said in the statement. “With this in mind security has been increased and we ask that everyone work with us for a safe and enjoyable event.”

What’s going on here?

The organizers and law enforcement seem particularly tight-lipped about what the threatening message stated. One reenactor quoted in the story relates that “the letter sent to the foundation threatened that excrement would be thrown or weapons fired at the reenactors.” Why would someone hate a Civil War reenactment so much?

The simplest and most logical explanation is that this is a new, violent extension of the effort to remove Confederate statues. Down in New Orleans, the now-removed Battle of Liberty Place Memorial had the inscription: “United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.” One does not have to be a bleeding-heart liberal to believe that public squares should not feature inscriptions touting “white supremacy.”

But to terrorize or threaten a Civil War reenactment is completely different; this marks an indisputable attack on America’s history. The participants at Cedar Creek bristled with resentment at the suggestion that their passion for studying and reenacting history is driven by a desire to celebrate the Confederacy or white supremacy. (For starters, it’s a Union victory!)

We live in an era where far too many Americans remain profoundly ignorant of even basic facts about their own country’s history:

“A 2012 ACTA survey found that less than 20 [percent] of American college graduates could accurately identify the effect of the Emancipation Proclamation, less than half could identify George Washington as the American general at Yorktown ((Virginia)), and only 42 [percent] knew that the Battle of the Bulge occurred during World War II.”

And somebody wants to put a stop to a tradition that gets Americans to travel to Civil War battlefields and actually learn what happened there? Who did this, the Proudly Ignorant Insurgency? The Counter-Education Guerrillas? The Anti-History Brigade?

If Civil War reenactments are somehow unacceptable because of people playing the roles of Confederate soldiers, how much further must this effort to erase history go? Museums? Books? Movies or television shows?

(There is also the possibility that someone made the threat and left the device to discredit the effort to remove Confederate statues. If this was an episode of Law & Order, Bones, Castle, or any other police procedural drama, the big twist would be that the would-be bomber’s motive was personal, not political.)

You no doubt have heard the Santayana quote, “Those who do cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” I can’t help but wonder if those who did worst in history class are determined to destroy it, because it reminds them of their inadequacies.

UPDATE: Nearly three years later, a search warrant from the FBI suggests that the Bureau is looking at a disgruntled Civil War reenactor as the perpetrator of the threats, not Antifa.

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