In Want of Outrage

The Cedar Creek battlefield, where members of the 26th Pennsylvania College Guard were attending a reenactment this weekend (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Cedar Creek battlefield, where members of the 26th Pennsylvania College Guard were attending a reenactment this weekend (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

By Nick Arbaugh, Columnist

Where, oh, where have the protesters gone? What ever happened to the occupiers of Penn Hall, the legions who rallied at the drop of the hat in solidarity with any group, or those who vigorously thumped their chest shouting that they would no longer stand for hate? Has the Gettysburg I’ve come to know unanticipatedly changed without my knowing?

The reason I ask is because I simply cannot understand the lack of outrage on this campus as of late. As a freshman, I had heard tales of years past in which even the wrongly-worded flyer could lead to rehearsed demonstrations. As soon as last year, a speaker with the “wrong” thoughts and interpretations provoked the administration into hastily constructing a counter-event in a desperate attempt to signal their virtue to the mob. Even this year, a comedy play with the “wrong” jokes has garnered a boycott. These reactions were provoked by words, either the written or the spoken, that were considered outside the purview of acceptable mainstream thought in Gettysburg College. So, you will hopefully forgive my incredulity at the lack of reaction when actual physical violence in the form of domestic terrorism goes almost completely unnoticed by the greater Gettysburg Community.

The 26th Pennsylvania College Guard (PCG), our Civil War reenactment club, recently attended a reenactment event in Cedar Creek, Virginia. That event had received terroristic threats towards the reenactors, which many were believed to be related to the use of Confederate flags by the reenactors on the Southern side. Going beyond words, a person/group left an explosive device at the event. Nobody was hurt, the device (some sort of “pipe bomb”) was successfully rendered safe by the Virginia State Police Bomb Squad, and PCG returned to campus safely. Thank God. Though the event was understandably shaken up, most of the reenactors stayed (although PCG returned to Gettysburg) and put on their event regardless of the potential hazards and chanted “USA!” repeatedly at the event’s conclusion.

Now, it would be ludicrous and erroneous to claim that everyone who is against the flying of the Confederate flag supports this kind of radical action. In fact, I’d wager that 99% of them would be as disgusted with this action as those with whom they disagree. This editorial is not a commentary on the issue and takes no stance on it. However, I do think it is fitting to take the campus social justice movement to task over their hypocritical lack of response. It is certainly no coincidence that I haven’t seen one article in the Surge, one email about a solidarity rally, or even one inkling of a call to action from any of the usual suspects.

The social justice movement at Gettysburg is represented by the several campus offices extolling “inclusion” and “diversity,” the several campus clubs calling for “equality,” and the administrative officials dispatching email after email lauding its righteousness. Yet even a movement as loosely coordinated as that of social justice seems to have the collective neurological capacity to ignore the spiteful political hatred that occurred at Cedar Creek. The infidelity of the acolytes of the Gettysburg social justice movement to their beloved doctrines is a betrayal of their movement’s apathy to anything that doesn’t fit within the purview of its narrative. Willing to go to war over inflammatory language, they fall utterly silent when the inflammation (both figuratively and, in this case, literally) is spewed forth by their ideological brothers and sisters on the political left. Their silence on this issue is a manifestation of the insincerity and duplicity of the movement. They possess regard only for their own, their talk of holistic comradery a façade that hides their disdain for anything contradictory to their ideology. Our friends at PCG’s experience with terror didn’t advance their cause, and so they fell deafeningly silent. And marching behind them in goosestep, the campus administration.

So, what am I asking for? Not much. The event happened a while ago, and as I have attempted to elucidate in this editorial, it went largely unnoticed. In all likelihood, since this editorial is a response to an unnoticed event it too will likely go unnoticed. Yet still, it is just as important that we criticize the inaction of those who demand endless action from the rest of us. If they wish to demand equality, whatever that means, then their “work” should reflect that. Enough of the partisan picking and choosing.

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Author: Nick Arbaugh

Nick Arbaugh '20 hails from a town outside of Philadelphia called Horsham, Pennsylvania. Throughout High School he played baseball, wrote for the school paper, and served as the Vice President of his class. At Gettysburg, he serves as a Student Senator and the Vice Chair of the Young Americans for Freedom, and is an active member in College Republicans and Young Americans for Liberty.

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  1. I am the president of the 26th Pennsylvania College Guard, our Civil War reenactment group here at Gettysburg College. I would like to point out some of the misconceptions that are outlined in this editorial. First of all, the 26th PCG is not a politically motivated group. Our group’s purpose is the education of the public about the life and experiences of a Civil War soldier and civilian. Our group does not identify with the political left or right. We remain politically neutral and are dedicated to education. Secondly, I would like to ask the writer of the editorial to put them self in my shoes or the college administration’s shoes and see what decision they would have made. As president, I am responsible for the safety of the members of the PCG. Upon initially hearing the threats made against the reenactment, I considered pulling us from the event due to a potential hazard. Upon meeting with college administration, it was determined that the threat was minimal and we could proceed as planned. After the first day of a two-day weekend, the report of a pipe bomb being found came to me. Myself and the college were then placed in an extremely difficult situation as there was now a direct threat against the event and participators in the reenactment. I was in contact with DPS as the situation unfolded to provide the college with up to date information and to inform them of our decision to return to campus early. This decision was made unanimously by the club as no one wanted to risk their life by staying at the reenactment and the college fully supported our decision. There was no political motivation or “cause” we or the college administration were trying to advance or not advance in making this decision or attending the reenactment. Lives were at stake. The campus administration wanted to ensure the safety of all members of the club. They were simply doing their job to sustain a safe environment for the students. Given the situation, I am wondering how the writer of the editorial would have acted, whether they would have done the same as myself and the college administration or would have stayed and put the lives of Gettysburg College students in potential danger.

    As stated in the editorial, the social justice community has not remained silent this year. A boycott of a comedy play occurred. The production of the play occurred within the last week. The social justice community has not fallen silent. Is it the responsibility of our campus social justice community to demand action for all instances of hate? Should the social justice community then speak out against every small act of hate that occurs throughout the world? This is unrealistic. Our campus social justice community is committed to speaking out against acts of injustice on our campus. Though the scope may be small, it encourages the local community to reflect on and take action against hate. From there, the movement against hate can grow, but it must start somewhere. No one has fallen silent when related to social justice. Yes, the incident at Cedar Creek did largely go unnoticed by the greater college community. It was not publicly announced to the student body. Just because the entire student body was not made aware of this incident does not mean that no action was taken in response to it. The incident made local and national news, with large newspapers such as the Washington Post writing an article about the reenactment. The college administration was well aware of the incident and again, was concerned for our safety. Safety, not political action, was the primary concern here. No one, not myself, the college administration and I’m sure greater Gettysburg College community, wanted anyone to get hurt at this event. The safety of these students trumped all other concerns. The writer of the editorial calls for “enough of the partisan picking and choosing.” I call for the same. Stop criticizing the lack of action taken by the college administration and social justice community over this event and just be glad that no one was a victim of an act of domestic terrorism.

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    • Hey Ken,
      I don’t think in the article I made any assertion of PCG being political. Obviously the organization isn’t. I also wouldn’t have handled the situation any differently than you, and never in the article did I criticize PCG’s reaction. I’m sorry if you interpreted my comment about PCG leaving as a slight, it wasn’t intended as such. I don’t think that you could have handled it any better honestly.

      The purpose of the article was to criticize the social justice movement. The social justice movement at Gettysburg demands that people completely and fully commit themselves to the ideals of social justice. If someone or some group uses terminology found to be “violent”, they hold a protest. I dont think it is too much to ask that they, who demand the conformity of others, at least conform to the tenets of their movement (those tenets being obviously against violence against a group of people). At the core, I’m criticizing the lack of true empathy on their part.

      I’m afraid that you are misinterpreting my condemnation of their inaction as condemnation of your action. I simply wish that the vocal few stick up for everyone, especially when a group (such as PCG was) is threatened with actual violence.

      If you’d like to talk more about this issue, or do not understand my reply/or article, please reach out to me via email or in person. I really don’t want you to get the wrong impression of what I’m saying, and I think we may agree more than either of us realize.


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  2. I agree entirely with you Ken. I think it’s also important to know that with each event, all reenactors must sign a waiver of rights which acknowledges that we know there are risks involved with the hobby. Granted the risk of domestic terrorism has never been a real threat in the 12 years of me participating in the hobby, but we all know that there is some risk in the activity and accept that risk with each educational event. I also believe it would be foolhardy if the club officers did not leave the event, when the threat to their club members lives was at stake. As a former officer of the club, who has worked with college administrators and DPS before, I would have taken the same action to leave Cedar Creek, with or without the colleges knowledge.

    I think the reenactors did it best. Chanting “USA” after the final, impromptu battle. What better way to show solidarity across political lines? There was no division after the event, and the event closed peacefully. The reenactors had their own protest to the hate, and I, personally, feel like reenactors have the last word on the issue of hate towards us.

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