Recently, two unfortunate subjects have stolen time from the joy in writing about the American Civil War and, hopefully, the occasional interest readers have in the end results. The proposed Gettysburg Casino, a project designed to blatantly exploit the fame and associated sacrifice of the Battlefield at Gettysburg, lingers on as an insidious malignancy threatening to sicken the beauty of the now peaceful fields. The casino investors calculated choice of a location near the battlefield reeks of a sordid desire to capitalize on the deaths of the thousands of men who "gave the last full measure of devotion". Neither our ancestors’ storied past nor our shared national history should ever suffer the indignity of strangulation by a deliberately placed noose of avarice and greed.
The Ku Klux Klan now also seeks to exploit the hallowed ground of Gettysburg to satisfy their self-indulgent, hateful ends. As fated once before, Gettysburg will apparently follow in the footsteps of Antietam. The Klan defiled the sacred grounds of the Antietam National Battlefield just a few short weeks past.
Not despite, but because of the moral obligation to counter both message and messenger, I strongly support the strategy of not combating the Klan’s demonstration on this cherished, hallowed ground. These foul parasites hunger for controversy and feed on the publicity it spawns. They will endlessly seek to desecrate the fields of our shared heritage if the media, counter-protesters, and onlookers continuously, though perhaps unintentionally, quench their thirst for center stage. While we should ceaselessly challenge prejudice and hatred at every turn, each battle can and should adopt the strategy that best meets the immediate need. With all possible respect to those who find the Klan’s message similarly offensive, I urgently ask that no one give them that which they so desperately seek. If the well of publicity runs dry, they will have to dip their cups of hatred elsewhere. When no longer able to find an opportunistic pool, then perhaps we will celebrate the day that such evil crawls back into its fetid hole to die its deservedly slow and painful death.
The Battlefield at Gettysburg silently honors the 160,000 men who marched, fought, bled, and died that this nation might live. The rolling fields, craggy heights, and venerable monuments both memorialize and celebrate the lives and sacrifices of our ancestors while educating new generations about our history, errors, triumphs, and the values that shaped this nation. Given this unmistakable truth, no justification exists for ignoring the national insult of these attempted exploitations. Home to the ghosts of such staggering courage, this holy ground forever holds our storied past, consecrated with the blood of tens of thousands of Americans who helped to shape the nation whose privileges we enjoy today.
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