This is one more opportunity to develop something else that gives people a reason to come to Gettysburg and have a different kind of experience.Different from history. Again:
This town folds up in the winter. This might bring in money. There're going to be casinos in Pennsylvania. Why not here?Why not indeed? The question bypasses history to ask: aside from historical considerations, honoring the dead, reverencing a special place, why not multipurpose?
And guess what: the state and federal administrators of battlefields - multipurposing fanatics, every one - should be helpless before this question. Their operating principles have made the casino scenario normal and ethical. They have disarmed the truly preservation-minded for decades. The only logical grounds a state or federal parks administrator can have for objecting to a redlight district, casino, or animal rendering plant at Gettysburg is that of a social calculation: attendance levels and "appropriateness".
Likewise, Civil War Preservation Trust seems confused in condemning the casino, being more than happy to multipurpose battlefields by partnering with suchlike as wildlife groups and farmland preservation outfits to buy an easement on the cheap instead of own the land, an easement that keeps people off the land and out of history's way. CWPT has done so much to hybridize battlefield use that it seems weird they would suddenly get single-purpose religion in Gettysburg. Not that there is a lot of religion in that town:
Gettysburg Borough Council President Ted Streeter said he was neutral on the dispute, but he neatly summed up the concern that everyone shares, regardless of their point of view.Outrage. I know where mine is every time bird-watchers are invited to join CWPT in slapping restrictive covenants on hallowed ground to keep out the relatives of the fallen. The history minded. The reverent. Out. Rage.
Noting that the casino would be outside the boundaries of the battlefield, he said: "How far does the radius of `hallowed ground' extend? If the radius extends that far, it goes through Wal-Mart, Sheetz and the liquor store. Where was our outrage when those started?"
We have set ourselves up for a casino by donating to such as CWPT and applauding their allocation of our funds to multipurposing; we delight in the takeover of private battlefield land by public park administrations for multipurposing.
A casino at Gettysburg is what exactly what we deserve. Not what the dead deserve, no, but what we have earned for them - the most perfect paycheck for our corrupt and incompetent battlefield stewardship. The destruction continues, fueled by our misguided preservation dollars, by ill-conceived preservationist planning, and by that highest of public use principles, multipurposing.
This particular park when founded was an emblem of a certain generation. The casino shall be the emblem of our generation. We will be known for what we really were, not by the lofty names we "preservationists" called ourselves.
[This Bloomberg columnist disagrees and has a few kinder words for CWPT's Gettysburg posture.]