Fine. Yes I was on vacation. There was a wedding I was attending and that led to visit friends and family on the east coast and etc. It also led me to return to Gettysburg over the fourth of July weekdays, mostly because my kids are older now and I wanted to share some of that history with them. In case you weren’t aware, this July marked the 150th anniversary of the battle, July 1-3, 1863. This battle is important for several reasons, notably the turning of the tide in the Civil War when the south lost the initiative and would force no more offensive battles for the remainder of the war. The south’s high water mark if you will both figuratively and literally. This battle was also the bloodiest battle in the American Civil War with an estimated 51,000+ killed, wounded, or missing during the three-day battle. I figured this would be a place of quiet reverence and reflection as well as study. Boy was I shocked and dismayed when I showed up.
Upon arrival at the new visitors center I was bombarded with commercialism like I haven’t seen at any other battlefield converted into a national park. As soon as you walked in you were next to the massive gift center/tourist trap crap stations that resembled the ones that litter so many amusement parks, although this one did have some books in it. Then the restaurant where you could get “authentic civil war” fare or some burgers and fries, your choice. Wow, kids history is coming alive as I eat a six-dollar johnny-cake and wash it down with pond water, mmm mmm! Ok, fine, I get it, you need to turn a buck. I understand the park needs to earn revenue to operate and maintain the monuments, grounds, etc. Fine, sell some books, hats, maps, kitsch, and food. But really did you have to pimp out the old cyclorama, museum exhibits, and narrated film and charge people $13 a pop to see these things. I mean they already have to shell out between $20-65 dollars for a “licenced battlefield guide” per person or per car as it were. Less well-known is that you could purchase for $20 a CD with a book and take an audio tour of the entire battlefield in the gift shop. But the whole place was designed to get you into that admission line to pay. No where was it mentioned that you could just set out on your own and explore. Had I not been there before I might have walked into the line and shelled out the cash just in confusion.
That, however, was not what ticked me to all end. What got me was the atmosphere of an amusement park half of these people comported themselves with while they visited, crawled on, and farted around on as they trod this sacred ground. It is not sacred because I say it is. It is sacred because it is soaked in American blood, north and south. I watched some little punk get his picture taken of him picking the nose of O’Rourke’s monument on Little Round Top, then go bounding from rock to rock screaming “look ma, look ma”
I know kids to today and a lot of adults aren’t interested in history unless it is interactive all bells and whistles and Wifi. I say who cares. Our history will continue to be important no matter what technological wonder is the hottest, newest thing, and will be around long after most of it has been sent off to obscurity or the landfill. Have some respect, if you can’t have that then just stay the hell away.