Scott Lang and me at the CarnegieCarnegie's 6th Annual Civil War Weekend
This past weekend I had the honor of participating in the CarnegieCarnegie’s 6th Annual Civil War Weekend in Pittsburgh. My contribution to the festival (which featured re-enactments, musical performances, exhibits, tours, sutlers and a ball) came in the form of a lecture that presented the experiences of the 123rd Pennsylvania Volunteers at the Battle of Fredericksburg, as well as a screening of our documentary “The Angel of Marye’s Heights.” I will post the video of my talk (if the quality is decent), or the transcripts w/ slides in the coming weeks. Personally, I wasn’t that pleased with my delivery, but the audience seemed very receptive and enjoyed it. I was joined in the Music Hall by Pittsburgh author Scott Lang who wrote The Forgotten Charge: The 123rd Pennsylvania at Marye's Heights, Fredericksburg, Virginia. Scott shared an extensive knowledge of the 123rd and displayed his wonderful collection of relics. It was great to have a REAL expert on hand.
I was unable to make it down to the new Ben Franklin exhibit at the Heinz Museum as the NRA Convention was in town. Instead I had the pleasure of having dinner and cocktails with longtime friend Maroon David, a tremendously gifted historian and teacher's assistant at Carnegie Mellon University. In addition to providing me with some insights on achieving academic accreditation, Maroon also gave me a copy of American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence by Pauline Maier. One of my interests nowadays is the misrepresentation of the Founding Documents in support of a religious or political agenda. I am amazed at how many folks sincerely believe that the Constitution was somehow inspired or ordained by God and is therefore a sacred document free from scrutiny. Personally, as a Christian, I find it extremely offensive that anyone would equate the Constitution with the Bible, yet it is Christians who are often the guiltiest at propagating this notion. Let’s see what Thomas Jefferson had to say on the matter:
Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched; who ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. Let us follow no such examples, nor weakly believe that one generation is not as capable as another of taking care of itself, and of ordering its own affairs. Each generation is as independent as the one preceding, as that was of all which had gone before. (Letter to Samuel Kerchival, 1816. Page 199. The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia)
Of course the Constitution isn't the only document worth our examination. According to the publisher American Scripture provides a thorough analysis of the Declaration of Independence's origins, influence, and regard. The author also examines the ways in which the Declaration has been revered and redefined by different groups of Americans. In the current ‘Age of Misinformation’ where it has become tolerable for political extremists and fringe groups to misquote and misrepresent our Founders (and their documents), it is imperative that we learn as much as we can about their history. I just started reading this book, so I am not quite sure if Ms. Maier’s interpretations are revolutionary. I will post my own review after I finish reading it.