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On Truth, Writer’s Block, and the Future (Also, Welcome Back)

Hello and welcome back to This Cruel War! It’s been a month since my last post, and the much-needed break was incredibly rewarding. I got the chance to relax, watch a LOT of Star Wars, and listen to a lot of David Bowie. 1Seriously, the new album is amazing – if you like that sort of thing.

I’ve got a slew of new articles to share with you in the coming weeks, but first there’s some business to take care of before we get into the thick of things, so let’s get started.

Having Writers Block

One of the worst things that can happen to a writer is the dreaded writers block. Even though I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, it never ceases to scare the hell out of me when it hits. What if I’m never able to string a few words together again? What if every time that I sit down at the desk to write, the blank screen remains blank? Even though I had over a hundred different ideas, nothing seemed to flow. It was horrible.

But after a few weeks, it passed. It wasn’t my longest bout of the block, but it was the most irritating, as I actually had so many things I wanted to say – I just couldn’t figure out a way to say them.

Fortunately, that’s gone, and I’ve been busier than a politician at an ass-kissing convention. But during the blockage, I got to thinking about the whole idea of truth and how it pertains to history and heritage, especially concerning the Civil War.


Truth vs. Fact vs. Heritage

From the very beginning, when I was just starting to think about writing This Cruel War, I got advice from two different people, both readers of my previous blog The Civil War Daily Gazette. The first reader encouraged me by telling me to write the truth about the war. The second reader told me much the same thing – that the truth needed to be told.

While both were readers of the CWDG, neither were on the same “side” of things. One was very pro-Confederate and the other was very not. Yet both used the word “truth” to describe their opposing opinions.

That both used the word in this way rendered it completely meaningless outside of their own headspace. That got me thinking about what “truth” actually means. Truth is not the same thing as fact. Facts are based upon empirical evidence, while truth is something clearly a bit more relative.

I found that it helps to think of truth not as something that can be correct or incorrect. Instead, think of the word “true” as a carpenter or woodworker might understand it. When you’re building a bookshelf, you’d like the pieces to fit together, so you make sure that your cuts are true. This doesn’t mean that everything you build will have the same measurements. It means that in order for these particular pieces to fit together, they have to be true to that specific design. That is what truth is – it’s the relative way in which you fit your pieces together. In a broader sense, it’s the stuff you believe. Sure, quite often these truths are actually facts or based upon facts, but too often they’re not.

Again, this doesn’t mean that the person who honestly disagrees with facts is lying, it just means that their truth is not factual. It’s still true to them. I guess it’s sort of like Obi-Wan Kenobi said to Luke:

“You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”

Because of this, I don’t use the word “truth” in my writings. I’ll call something factual or correct when it is, and something incorrect when it’s not. If someone is misquoting or misrepresenting something, I won’t accuse them of lying – after all, it’s true to them. I may, however, point out that they’re incorrect.

As an example – those who insist that slavery had little or nothing to do with the start of the Civil War are incorrect, they are wrong. But they are not lying. They’re telling the truth as they see it. Their refusal to face the facts might be pigheaded or denial, but it’s not dishonesty.

When someone tells me to keep writing the truth, I don’t really know what they mean. I’ll smile and nod, promising to do just that (I’m not going to lie, of course), but really, my truths are probably not the same as theirs.

What I can promise to do is keep on keeping on, doing the same thing I’ve been doing – though hopefully better.


What’s to Come

With that, I’ll be focusing upon Reconstruction a bit more than I have thus far. I know that I’ve been avoiding it some – it’s just so damned depressing. Immediately after the war, there was such hope and such potential, especially concerning the rights of the black citizens. It’s just heartbreaking to realize how quickly and systematically that was all dismantled for no other reason than racism. Reconstruction is an incredibly complex and horrible era in our history and heritage, and because of that, it’s one of the most important.

For the foreseeable future, I’m going to try to write at least one article a week about the post-war years. We’ll talk about black suffrage, the Ku-Klux Klan’s origin, the Back-to-Africa Movement, and why the Confederates we’re not found guilty of treason.

Of course, the pre-war will hardly be forgotten. We’ll look at the secession fever that seemed to be taking over the South during the Buchanan-Freemont election, the murder of Owen Lovejoy, a Southern black radical abolitionist, even a bit on the Articles of Confederation, as well as quite a bit more.

The individual posts are also turning out to be a bit longer in length. Whereas before they were maxing out at around 2,000 words, the ones I’ve been working on are around 3,000. It’s a considerable increase, and I hope you’ll still stick with me through it. I try to be brief, but am basically Polonius. People who know me should not be too surprised.

Because of this, there might be a time when I’ll not be able to publish three articles a week, and will have to cut back to two. I’m not there yet, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it happened.

With that, I’ll see you back here on Wednesday for “No Negro Shall Have the Right” – The Black Struggle for the Vote Across the North and South.

References   [ + ]

Has always had a love for history and the Civil War. During the 150th anniversary of the war, writing the Civil War Daily Gazette blog, which published daily for nearly five years. Wishing to continue the exploration, following the Charleston murders in 2015, and the activism around removing the Confederate Battle Flag, decided to dig a little deeper into the causes and repercussions of the War.