|A Science Fiction Fanzine||Summer 2009|
A few years ago when I had more time to do so, I used to put on my Civil War uniform and go to local elementary schools (with their invitation, of course) and talk to some of the classes about local Civil War history.
Here’s one of the ways I used to try to convey to them the fact that war, in general, changes our world for all time. I’d ask them to look around their classroom and look at the faces of all their 25 or 30 classmates – kids they’d all known for several years at that point – and then to imagine what it would be like if every 4th one of them suddenly vanished into thin air, as though they’d never been born in the first place. The kids usually giggled at this idea.
Then I’d say, “The thing is, this already happened to you and you didn’t know it until right now. The Civil War caused the deaths of over 620,000 soldiers, and many of them were young men from right here in Washington County. Had it not been for that war, those young men would have grown up, married, had children, and their children would have done the same as would their children. And *their* children would have been right here in this room sitting beside you now. But because of the Civil War, those children whom you would have known for all your lives simply never existed. So that war, fought long before you or I were born, has taken something from all of us. All wars do that, and that’s why we all should work as hard as we can to prevent any more wars from ever happening again.”
The kids seem to understand my point well enough. Of course, that story seems like a much harder sell these days when we’re fighting a war in the Middle East that even I don’t know how to justify to schoolchildren.