September 03, 2010

A New Meaning for Gettysburg

Dear Friends:

The following essay contains an excerpt from an article that appeared in the the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on August 31, about a casino that is very likely to be built just outside of the Gettysburg battlefield. The essay itself is by Dave Cohen, appearing on the website on September 1st. You can draw your own conclusions (though I personally think it's hard to argue with Dave's). [My two cents are in brackets, BTW.]

The Meaning Of Gettysburg

Few people outside Pennsylvania know that for a long time now, there have been plans to build a gambling casino 1/2 mile south of the Gettysburg National Military Park.

The Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point in the Civil War, the Union victory in the summer of 1863 that ended General Robert E. Lee's second and most ambitious invasion of the North. Often referred to as the "High Water Mark of the Rebellion", it was the war's bloodiest battle with 51,000 casualties. It also provided President Abraham Lincoln with the setting for his most famous address.

Gettysburg and the surrounding area are as close to Sacred Ground as you can get in America. Yesterday, casino friends and foes testified before the state's Gaming Control Board. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has been covering the story.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010
By Tom Barnes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
GETTYSBURG -- It's Pro-Casino vs. No-Casino, as advertised.

The state Gaming Control Board is holding an all-day hearing today on whether a $75 million resort hotel casino should be added to the existing Eisenhower hotel and conference center, just south of the southern border of the Gettysburg National Military Park, where thousands of Union and Confederate troops died in early July 1863.

"NO!" shouted Susan Starr Paddock, leader of No Casino Gettysburg, who said a casino so close to "hallowed" Civil War ground would be a national disgrace. She was supported by Nicholas Redding of the Civil War Preservation Trust, who urged the board to "save the hallowed nature of this ground for future citizens and preserve Gettysburg."

"YES!" said David LeVan, owner of a Gettysburg motorcycle dealership and lead developer, along with Penn National Gaming (which would finance and operate the casino), plus several Adams County and Cumberland Township officials (where the casino would be located), who each stand to get $1 million a year from the casinos, to help them add jobs and hold down taxes.

State Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick, wasn't here today but did have a statement of support that was read. Mr. Readshaw, who has spent the last 13 years restoring the monuments at the Civil War battlefield, said Mr. LeVan "has assisted me in numerous important ways," including an annual fund-raising motorcycle ride from Harrisburg to the Battlefield Harley Davidson dealership in Gettysburg, which Mr. LeVan owns.

The opponents of the casino showed a video in which author David McCullough, filmmaker Ken Burns, actor Sam Waterston, Susan Eisenhower, grandaughter of President Dwight Eisenhower (who lived here after leaving the presidency) and others urged the board to give the second and final resort casino license to one of three other applicants. [Am I reading this correctly? McCullough et al. are not arguing that there should be no casino, but only that the license should be given to someone else??--!] [This is the end of the excerpt from the newspaper.]

It will be impossible to please everybody in this contentious fight—someone must win and someone must lose. I believe there is a novel solution to this dilemma which transcends petty local disputes:

Put this fucking casino right on the battlefield, preferably where the Union men repulsed Pickett's charge, or even better, on the very ground where Lincoln spoke. Whereas in the past Gettysburg has served as a powerful symbol of our desire to be better than we are, of the desire of the United States to rid itself of the moral stain—the evil—of slavery in which one man "owns" another, we now have an opportunity to invest Gettysburg with a new meaning more fitting to the times we live in.

Let this fucking casino be a powerful symbol to future generations of what an open, running, rancid sewer the United States had become by 2010. It is altogether proper that Gettysburg remain an unwavering emblem of who we are, and what we aspire to. Let us resolve today and henceforth to give a New Meaning to Gettysburg.

[Who are we? A sad collection of clowns. What do we aspire to? Money. How much do we care about our heritage? Zip.]