The Civil War and how understanding it is understanding who we are as Americans

As you may have heard, we are in the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. I confess that the History Channel is one of my favorite pastimes over the years. One film I have seen many times is the 1990 Ken Burn’s Civil War. The story telling style and historical richness of the narrative were a breakthrough and this classic is a must see. But, more importantly the Civil War itself is inarguable the defining moment of our nation and us as a people—we at our best and at our worst.

I am not sure I entirely understand the Civil War, but the more I do the more I get us as a people and culture. We still are a regionally influenced people. However, we became a nation with all of our differing values, nationalities and statehoods because of the war. In fighting with ourselves, we learned that a unified federal state over the ideals of freedom could make our free-thinking ways coexist.

Here are some things today that could not exist without the Civil War:

  • Today, we can be Americans and be different colors, creeds and cognitions and be legally equal. (Not always in heart, but in mind at least.) To be American is not about having the same spices cooking in your kitchen as the neighbors.
  • We fight cultural wars, but in the end know the cost is too high to win outright. We know there is a limit to the pace of progress, in other words.
  • The two-party system in all its imperfections allows us to choose and yet not splinter.  States have rights. But, there are some rights that even the government itself has not right to infringe—at least we hope that is true.
  • The war, as one historian claimed in the film, is not over. We still have to fight for freedom—even against ourselves. Civil rights was paid for by the Civil War. It showed us that any rights are not free. Many battles had to be fought and are still raging. Could sex trafficking be one of those we are finally waking up to?

There are many other practical things the war did. Do you have anything you can add or comment on these?

Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

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