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Analysis: The Renaming of a Football Game
All the world’s history gradually dying of shock

This year, Oregon and Oregon State played the latest installment in the longest lasting college football rivalry in college football history. In the months leading up to the contest, under some fanfare, and with no input from fans, the universities’ made a joint announcement that the contests between the two would no longer be referenced as “the Civil War”.

The President’s of the University of Oregon and Oregon State University stated that because the American Civil War to which the name referenced was a “war fought to perpetuate slavery”, they could not in good conscience keep the name.

It remained to be seen if this would really sit well with the public, and in light of everything else going on in 2020, it almost seems like a trivial thing one way or the other. Without people gathering together, its difficult to gauge how much fans will embrace a rivalry game with no name.

Perhaps a more thoughtful approach could not have been taken. It's astonishing where the history and philosophy departments at these schools find themselves. How did a president of a higher institution of learning not take a moment to consider what was being said? How do these people have no historical understanding of the American Civil War? How is nothing being said about how the basic tenet of dialectic discourse, one which says nothing can be fought for unless someone is also fighting against it?

How can the Civil War not be seen as a war fought to end slavery just as much as a war to perpetuate it? To be totally fair, it wasn't as if the Confederacy trying to force their way of life on the Union. In fact, it was the Union fighting a war to end slavery, and force their values on the Confederacy. So if anything, the war for change, fought by the Union, was fought to end slavery.

History has certain precepts. One of the most important is that history is written by the winners. So how did we get here? To a place where history is apparently written by the losers. How did the Union win the war, end slavery on a national level, and allow the rhetoric to be that the war was fought to perpetuate slavery? For the record, upwards of 1.1 million casualties were a result of the Civil War. About 600,000 of those were on the Union side.

What would it have been like to tell those men -- some of them African-American -- that the war they were fighting was to perpetuate slavery. Historical truth should be about focusing on a frame of reference that includes the narratives of both the winners and losers, and the perceptions thereof. This is not that. If anything, this smacks of an attitude of "easier to leave it alone."

Part of what has happened is that the massive majority of people who are fascinated with the Civil War are Confederate apologists, and that those people present that side of the narrative aggressively. The perception has become that the Civil War was therefore fought to perpetuate slavery, instead of to end it. This is of course allowing the Civil War to be established as a single issue conflict, which it was not. If it was though, two universities managed to state publicly, something which is philosophically and historically inept.

We could use the game every year to actually raise awareness for Civil War history. We could use it to glorify Union soldiers that lost their lives to end slavery. It could be used as a platform to raise awareness for racial issues, and to teach real history about the actual Civil War. We might even talk about Oregon's incredibly awkward racial history. We could have a trophy called the Union Cup, or we could name it in honor of African American soldiers. We could talk about why the games started to be called the Civil War in the first place. Instead we are getting a bad historical erasure foisted on us by people that are claiming a narrative in that is largely opposite of historical accuracy.

The world’s history is not dying of shock. It’s being willfully erased by people who entertain poor history and cultural/ historical snap judgements which don’t just paint with broad strokes, but in monochrome as well. The truly sad result of this will be that history becomes far more likely to repeat. Or as a favorite historian says "history does not repeat, but it rhymes a lot."

It’s a small thing, isn’t it? What we call a game? The truth is it does not have to be small. We could make it big. The intentions of this move were for the “right reasons,” and that the intention is pure. Those good intentions are misguided and paired with gross misinformation.

Many will never call it the Platypus Bowl. Oregon and Oregon State have a hard enough hill to climb to get national respect in the sports world. We don't need to make ourselves a laughing stock with such an oddball name or likeness. Plus the name is just weird and does not roll off the tongue.

This has been a bizarre year to say the least. COVID-19 has made life tough on many, as have public and government responses to it. Oregon is now in the Pac 12 title game, and Oregon State will hopefully get a bowl game or another chance to play. No matter what we call it, it would be nice to we enjoy our rivalry games in person. If we get to, it would be nice to talk about what to call the game, and how that might be used. That said its always easier to not have hard conversations. And using these rivalry games which have been called Civil War for a long time, as teaching moments and a way to honor history is not easy. That would take something more than whiteout or an eraser.

Lungs locked, lips locked, join the renaissance

Italicized lyrics from Amanda Palmer and the Dresden Dolls

--Jeremy Kropf

Post Date: 2020-12-17 06:57:55Last Update: 2020-12-17 07:25:16

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