Devil’s work near Devil’s Den?
Sunday, September 5th, 2010
Actor Matthew Broderick is against it. So is historian David McCullough. Will anyone speak up for the proposed casino near the Gettysburg battlefield? In this week’s Centre Square commentary, Chris Satullo gives it a reluctant try.
I’m a Civil War buff.
Not of the type who does reenactments, during which he’ll only eat with a three-tine fork, because that what’s the boys of the 20th Maine used back in 1863.
But definitely of the type that detours family vacations to the nearest battlefield, where he’ll stand dreamily, map in hand, hearing the tramp of ghostly feet and the thunder of long-ago cannon – while his impatient family hears only the buzz of mosquitoes.
I’m also a guy who prefers his battlefields fully preserved, like Antietam. For my taste, even Gettysburg is littered with too many monumental monstrosities erected by 19th century sentimentality.
Given all that, you’d think I’d be – as many buffs are – dead set against a plan to put a resort casino near the Gettysburg field, about two miles south of Little Round Top
But I’m not sure I am.
Objecting to projects near “sacred ground” is of course a big theme of this summer’s news. But whether it’s a mosque near Ground Zero or a casino near Devil’s Den, I notice that project foes tend to exaggerate both the proximity and the so-called affront.
Our hold on history isn’t that fragile, is it? This casino – a reuse, actually, of an existing hotel – would actually be farther from the battleground than, say, Delilah’s strip club is from Independence Hall. It’s a busy nation; venal stuff is going to get built somewhere near places where great deeds were done. Yes, the sites themselves should be sacred. But can people just expand the zone of protection at will to block some project they’d oppose no matter what. Isn’t that more like exploitation of sacred ground than protection?
If you’ve ever been to Gettysburg, you know that kitschy commerce creeps right up to the foot of Cemetery Hill. Even the silly ghost walk I went on during a recent visit – might someone not deem that a tasteless profiting on long-ago sacrifice?
One man’s principle can be another’s matter of taste.
I don’t like casinos, have never gambled. I think they’re a poor excuse for proper tax policy. But I if don’t like casinos, I have the option to ignore them, to drive on by. As now proposed, I just don’t see how this Gettysburg casino would be the huge disaster that some claim.