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Archive for Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A human side?

Why should we care whether William Quantrill had an unpleasant relationship with his mother?

August 20, 2008

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It is difficult to believe we need a book purporting to show the "human side" of William Quantrill, who led the devastating 1863 raid on Lawrence. Who really cares, except perhaps devotees of the Confederacy, who still are inclined to consider this murderer a hero. The author of the novel "I, Quantrill" says the fictionalized story is designed to remind readers that the raid leader was just a man, not a demon.

It might be hard to sell that view to the families of the 180 men and boys killed by Quantrill's raiders, who burned and looted everything they could in Lawrence. The 244-page book notes that Quantrill died in 1865 in Kentucky after being shot by Union supporters. Most of us familiar with the depth and scope of the atrocities committed in that 1863 slaughter are inclined to hope he suffered.

Why waste time trying to generate sympathy for Quantrill's outlawry and bloodlust by suggesting they were at least partially a byproduct of a strained relationship with his mother. How did Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Attila the Hun get along with their mothers?

In the violent days of border wars involving Kansas and Missouri, raids took countless lives, and Kansans known as jayhawkers engaged in their share of murder and mayhem. Fortunately such activities have been transformed into less sanguinary athletic and commercial rivalries in this day and age.

As for the heroic status of Quantrill among Missourians (some of whom still contend he did only what was necessary), well into the 1900s the Lawrence raiders and their families held annual gatherings to "celebrate" what happened here in 1863. That is a "human side" we should understand and appreciate? For them it was "a war between the states," which is designed to sound more humane. It was never that pretty.

Jonathan Earle, a Civil War historian and author at Kansas University, doesn't hesitate to declare that despite any kind and commendable deeds Quantrill may have done along the way, the man's reputation is "unrehabilitatable" - if not in parts of Missouri, certainly throughout this region of Kansas.

"I, Quantrill" by Max McCoy is regarded as a fictional effort, which seems to put into perspective any efforts to depict William Quantrill as having a "human side." The bottom line is that he was in many ways a monster who deserves no sympathy for the life he led.

Comments

Lynn731 5 years, 7 months ago

All of your liberals would say, he was just misunderstood. Thank you, Lynn

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ChristmasCarol 5 years, 8 months ago

To dehumanize somebody is the easiest way to excuse yourself from doing something that a person would not want done to them. Like tell lies.

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ChristmasCarol 5 years, 8 months ago

I guess he had it coming from birth. I am sure that his surroundings were that would accomdate his views somehow. I did not live back then so I would not really know and it seems reduced to the trends of today as it was probably seen, not living then I really don't have a grasp on what those would actually be. People hold their beliefs as they are surrounded by what they are and adapt to agree with them or dissent from them whether openly or inwardly. I, like the herd of the rest of Americans, will just listen to what is said by much of anyone and believe it as it were true because I don't care about right or wrong I just care about money. So I guess by any means any one of you could be violating "human rights" as any of you might just call it at this given day. Just like some girl that lives on Muliner street or any other poor little idiot that wants to be paid to claim that some innocent bloke is stalking her as she strays out in her sleep walking state of mind into the halls of English classes and buildings with her boxer shorts on the outside of her underwear.

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Sandra Willis 5 years, 8 months ago

He is dead - as far as I can see, anything written that depicts him as other than a bad man must be related to him.

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cato_the_elder 5 years, 8 months ago

Outstanding editorial. Great job, J-W editorial staff.

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Paul Decelles 5 years, 8 months ago

Maybe the editor is uncomfortable with the notion that "decent" people are capable of really despicable acts.

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Quigly 5 years, 8 months ago

It didn't matter what side of the fence you were on. I can't even believe a con artists like him got into the same sentence as William Wallace and the others. Who are you? Even then the people knew he was a pompous con artist. The only thing he cared about was the General's uniform he worked so hard to get. You cannot even compare him with anyone famous. I can 5 Red Legs that were complete and utter psychopaths that were smarter than Quantrill. Not to mention Senator Lane. There was a reason he was buried in an unmarked grave. What a waste of time and effort when they could have done something about a dozen of the Raiders who are worthy of a book. Yet still this opportunistic, self-righteous, con artists gets books left and right. I am going to write a book now." George Bush, Genius of the Century"

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JayCat_67 5 years, 8 months ago

Coming soon to a book store near you, "I, Bin Laden"...

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75x55 5 years, 8 months ago

"In this case, the ends do justify the means."Essentially, the very same argument used by secessionists to split with the United States, given that the "state right" in question was being threatened by the westward expansion of non-slave states, and the subsequent loss of 'parity' in Congress. "ends justifying the means" is an extremely vague phrase, and leaves too much wiggle space to avoid related concepts such as authority and morality pertaining to the use of violence as a change agent.

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mom_of_three 5 years, 8 months ago

Oh, I was going to stay out of this discussion, but I can't. I have to disagree. In this case, the ends do justify the means. If people who wanted to end slavery didn't do anything (i.e. John Brown, anti-slavery societies, Harriet Tubman, etc), then slavery would have taken longer to extinguish. I don't have to like the methods, but I have to respect that people took a stand.

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lawrencian 5 years, 8 months ago

Every person is "human" -- and even as a Lawrence native, I don't think that Quantrill rates being compared to Hitler, Stalin or Attila the Hun!

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logicsound04 5 years, 8 months ago

Is this really worth an editorial? Aren't there more pressing things occurring in the world around us?So some person wrote a book about a historical figure...who cares?And for the record, I'm not in any way supporting William Quantrill or the Confederacy, but there was a fair share of atrocities committed on both sides of the border war between Missouri and Kansas.The fact that the Jayhawkers had righteousness on their side (defending the rights of blacks/slaves) doesn't make their crimes any less heinous. The ends do not justify the means.

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Kat Christian 5 years, 8 months ago

I see no point in wasting time humanizing any person who commits such horrible and devastating crimes against humanity. I see this happening too often in our society today - humanizing evil and criticizing good. It is what it is -evil is evil no matter what. Society is suffering from this ping-ponging back and forth trying to decide which way to be. I just don't want to believe we can turn evil into something positive. There is nothing positive about evil doers. Let evil and evil doers sink into the depths of where it came from and let us focus on the good of mankind instead of trying to condemn it or compete with it. Just "Let It Be"

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Baille 5 years, 8 months ago

Why should we care about what some editorial writer thinks about anything?The book on Quantrill has the same type of scholarly value as books on Alexander the Great (or Terrible, depending on which side of the wall you sat), William Wallace, General Sherman, Genghis Khan, Lao Tzu, and on and on and on. Heroes and villains are defined by the victors and the victims. I am sure that the Cheyenne look upon the Sand Creek Massacre as something akin to Quantrill's raid, and yet would anyone argue that a fact-based, objective view of what led to our soldiers committing that massacre would have no value? What about in the cyclical nature of such things, e.g. the years of violence at Pine Ridge reservation that was encouraged by the FBI and our federal and state government? Does Matthiesson's book have no value because it looks at the Peltier case objectively?Books such as these have value. What made people of historical significance tick gives us insight into the human condition. Scholarly books about these people, historical accounts: these things work together to educate us about our past. They help us move past the black and white worldview born of understandably emotional reactions to horrific events and people who have done very bad things and look at the whys and wherefores.What is sad is the continued insistence on painting history as a narrative made up of heroes and villains rather than a complex interplay between a variety of forces, interest groups, and external forces.

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Reaper2K 5 years, 8 months ago

The world is not so black-and-white as some would believe. While it is easy to vilify those who have done evil deeds, it is important to remember that many such men and women do so thinking only of the good that they can accomplish. The goal of a novel like I, Quantrill is not to excuse such behavior, but to understand it. This is why we study history and why many people are fascinated by the lives of both the heroes and the villains.

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canyon_wren 5 years, 8 months ago

I agree! The sophists in our society today are bent on minimizing the good qualities of our past heroes (Lincoln, et al.) and excusing the bad ones of our villains. Nothing seems to escape their determination to reduce everything in our past to some wishy-washy interpretation. It's so sad!

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