I knew you were going to mention Turner's "Gettysburg" since it was you who alerted me to its excellence. (Parenthesis: I thought "Gods and Generals" to be a much better film than it was reviewed to be, though not in the same league as "Gettysburg" or "Glory.")
I was going to add another passage from Crane's masterpiece - which is online in its entirety at several sites. Hard to choose which, though - most of the last four chapters center to one degree or another around the flag.
But the moment I thought most poignant was during the second climactic charge in the closing chapters, when Henry observes empathetically the desperate attempt of the enemy color-bearer to preserve his flag from capture but fails and dies in the attempt.
The emotional bond that Henry feels to his fallen enemy reminds me of Lincioln's words above. It also underscores the bond that unites us who may be on opposing sides of the political struggles that seem to divide us today.Comment Posted By JK Moran On 14.06.2006 @ 10:48
Speaking of which - let Crane speak for himself describing Henry Fleming's seizing of the flag:
"Within him, as he hurled himself forward, was born a love, a despairing fondness for this flag which was near him. It was a creation of beauty and invulnerability. It was a goddess, radiant, that bended its form with an imperious gesture to him. It was a woman, red and white, hating and loving, that called him with the voice of his hopes. Because no harm could come to it he endowed it with power. He kept near, as if it could be a saver of lives, and an imploring cry went from his mind.
In the mad scramble he was aware that the color sergeant flinched suddenly, as if struck by a bludgeon. He faltered, and then became motionless, save for his quivering knees.
He made a spring and a clutch at the pole. At the same instant his friend grabbed it from the other side. They jerked at it, stout and furious, but the color sergeant was dead, and the corpse would not relinquish its trust. For a moment there was a grim encounter. The dead man, swinging with bended back, seemed to be obstinately tugging, in ludicrous and awful ways, for the possession of the flag.
It was past in an instant of time. They wrenched the flag furiously from the dead man, and, as they turned again, the corpse swayed forward with bowed head. One arm swung high, and the curved hand fell with heavy protest on the friendâ€™s unheeding shoulder."Comment Posted By JK Moran On 14.06.2006 @ 10:17
Allow me to be the first to congratulate you on a fine essay on a far too generally overlooked day of commemoration.(Second, but who's counting?)
The richness of the flag as a symbol derives from what it represents, and those very democratic principles become most at risk when they are co-opted or hijacked by one side - any side - in the great and heated two hundred year old argument that is and has been American politics to the exclusion and demonization of the other.
It was after all Abraham Lincoln himself who understood this in his second inaugural address, during the most heated and violent of all of our historical political disputes:
"Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully...."
..and a more succinct analysis of American political disputation I cannot imagine.
The Civil War, your starting point in this fine piece, provides us with two emotion-laden artistic moments as well.
The 1989 film "Glory" - for my money the best Civil War film ever made and one of Hollywood's best and most shaded considerations of U.S. history ever, climaxes of course with the flag-led charge on the Conferate fort and a moment of supreme yet emotional irony when Denzel Washington's character, an embittered former slave who has earlier refused to carry the flag, dies clutching and upholding it over the fallen body of Mattew Broderick's Col. Robert Gould Shaw.
And even more so - the supreme moment of one of the great coming of age novels of world literature, Stephen Crane's "The Red Badge of Courage" (a book often badly taught by teachers who themsleves don't get it to students too young to understand it)occurs when protagonist Henry Fleming redeems himself in his own eyes by grabbing the flag from a mortally-wounded bearer and leading his regiment to victory in a bayonet charge (in a battle widely believed to be Antietam). The importance of the flag in this passage is just as you have described it so eloguently above, and Crane impresses us with the majesty and beauty of the moment.Comment Posted By JK Moran On 14.06.2006 @ 10:13
Jules and Pete -
Both your points have deep appeal to the hackles that someone like Coulter raises in me, but I think taking the moral high ground is preferable as a TACTIC, even beyond its basis in principle.
Had Weimar Germany had the kind of comic genius that Charlie Chaplin was when he skewered Hitler in "The Great Dictator" or the kind of moral leadership in its Christian churches that, say, the US did at points in the Civil Rights era of the '60's, would - could -Hitler have prevailed?
Or if someone had lampooned him as a "paper-hanging sonofabitch" at the same time that some cleric or other had ascended a pulpit and decried him as a false prophet with values diametrically opposed to those of Christianity, could not Germans have been shamed away from him in the same way that Gandhi and King turned moral people away from the heinous nature of British imperialism and American racism?
Genuine liberalism, it always seemed to me, has espoused the ideal that people can become better and more moral and more just if those virtues are exemplified to them.
Getting down in the same sewer with Coullter only makes us reek of the same charming perfume.Comment Posted By JK Moran On 8.06.2006 @ 19:11
But Jules - can't we just name your local guy the un-American "fascist pig" (great 60's term) that he is and have done at that point?
Now brother Rick has many flaws, not the least of which is that he really is a conservative and really likes George Bush - but a Nazi he is not.
I am reminded of a genuinely "liberal" comment that came from a conservative a couple of years back. Bill Moyers on PBS' "Now" was interviewing one of his long time classic conservative friends from The Heritage Foundation in the wake of this selfsame "lout" Coulter's publication of her book "Treason." (great term, Rick)
Moyers frequently included guests from the opposite camp on "Now," and unlike his right wing media counterparts, Moyers was unfailingly polite and pitched them pointed questions that allowed them to make their arguments at length and him to disagree when he felt appropriate. His segment with grover Norquist was a masterpiece of both interview technique and polite left/right dialogue.
His final question to the Heritage Foundation guy (sorry - I misremember the name) was "So - do YOU think I am a traitor?" Moyers' guest chuckled as he replied, "No, Bill, you're not. You're wrong, but you're no traitor."
And thus should our discourse with our opposite numbers ever be.Comment Posted By JK Moran On 8.06.2006 @ 18:21
Geez, Rick, I never knew you were a Nazi! How did you hide it from me all these years?
Jules, I am as frustrated as you appear to be with the Right's thus-far successful attempt to co-opt the image of the Deity to their own causes, but I don't think comparing our opponents to Brown Shirts will do much to advance a progressive agenda.
Now Jim Wallis is every liberal's favorite evangelical, and for the integration of traditional Christian views with progressive ideas, reading some Wallis has a tendency to calm the nerves.
As for God - He's been writing most of the articles in "The Atlantic" and "Harpers" for the last thirty years or so.Comment Posted By JK Moran On 8.06.2006 @ 17:48
....and BTW, Rick, a mild correction: I don't hate Bush. I actively despise most of his policies, but I have as much grudging repect for his bulldog single-mindedness as I do disdain for the pusillanimous spinelessness (in their flight from the core values of the Democrat tradition) of so-called and mistermed "liberals" like Hilary and Kerry...
...whom I do in fact despise.Comment Posted By JK Moran On 8.06.2006 @ 05:11
Depends on which of the six of us you mean, Godfrey. Terry is of course visible on "Nightline" most nights, and Greg is fighting the good journalistic fight down in San Diego; John and Larry are humanizing the face of American capitalism in different ways, and Jay is ruminating mysteriously on the fate of the world.
I read Rick nearly every day, but as a high school teacher and department chair by day and a community college instructor by night, life gets pretty raggedy-andy this time of year and I haven't had the time to attend to my own blog, much less Rick's. He takes quite good care of himself around here and doesn't need any help from me - which in the case of this Coulter thing I would happily provide.
I am always impressed by the range of his readership, both in terms of political convictions one the one hand and on variations in the degree of intelligence/literacy and so on on the other.
I'll bet he laughed at the "Dixie Cicks" comment, which was clever enough but inaccurate. The Chicks (as we have been discussing over on some of the music boards) ambushed their audience with a self-serving and uncalled for comment to people who had paid to hear some down-home music and not some crass pseudo-politics from the under-informed.
But you come knocking at the Nuthouse door and you ought to know that what you will get is first-rate commentary that will not be fettered to anyone else's labels or preconceptions. Caveat emptor. It's a Moran kind of thing - and in case anyone didn't know, I am Rick's classically liberal older brother....
...who believes by the way, that you right wingers had in Coulter's comment your very own "Ward Chruchill moment."
http://vividair.blogspot.com/Comment Posted By JK Moran On 8.06.2006 @ 04:41
>>>Godfrey Daniel Said:
Rick, been reading you for a while and love your writing. I have a question Iâ€™ve thought of asking that Iâ€™ll ask now: what the heck happened to your brother?Comment Posted By JK Moran On 8.06.2006 @ 04:34
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