So, just what am I in terms of my interest in the Civil War?
Plenty of terms are available – historian, buff, scholar, student, enthusiast, author, re-enactor, and perhaps a few more, but I’ll work with these for now.
Let’s start with author and re-enactor, as both of those are easily defined and neither apply to me.
The next one to investigate is “historian.” I admit I would like to be able to claim this title, but I think that would require an ego bigger than mine to think that as being true. I have given one talk about some local soldiers, done research on local stories and soldiers from the War, and made a few blog entries and message board posts about various topics, but none of this seems to me to be enough to be an “historian.” I like history and it was my major in college, but I think to be an historian requires more original scholarship and published work (or other forms of teaching/communicating such scholarship) than what I have done.
The same argument applies to similar terms such as “amateur historian” “scholar” or even “independent scholar.” All are very nice terms and I would like to apply them to myself and my interest in the war, but I have not earned them yet, at least from what I believe and can tell.
That leads us to “buff” a term that might be appropriate, but, for some reason, irritates me. Perhaps it’s because the term “civil war buff” has become a cliché that people apply to anyone and everyone who has interest in the war. It strikes me as being quite generic and almost even patronizing, due to its overuse so I prefer not to call myself a “buff.” I’m wondering if I’m being a bit pretentious in trying to avoid this label. I hope not, as pretentiousness is one trait I never wish to possess, but maybe I do.
“Student” is the next verbiage to look into and of the choices I’ve thought of, this may be the closest to matching what I feel like. It’s true I’m taking no classes or undergoing any formal educational programs, so I’m not a traditional student in any sense, but I’m constantly reading books and learning from them and as I get more involved with the Civil War on the web, I find myself learning more from various blogs and discussion boards. I’m moving out the isolation of my own little world and starting to see how many other opinions are out there and how many other people have such incredible knowledge. In other words, I’m starting to learn what I didn’t know before and “learning” is the essence of what a student does.
I guess “enthusiast” is another good description that would be fairly accurate in terms of how much I enjoy the war, but I’d like to think I do more than idly “enjoy” the war. “Enthusiast” seems to imply (to me anyway) someone who sits back and appreciates something but does not go beyond that – perhaps someone who has a passion for watching movies and perhaps buys them to watch over and over, but is not actively involved in any form of the movie industry. Of course, I’m not actively involved in the Civil War, but I’d like to think my attempts at learning more and even sharing what I learn with others means I do more than simply enjoy what I read or hear.
I’ve also thought of the word “fan” like in the fan of a sports team, but I think that sells myself short too, much like “enthusiast” does.
Perhaps “fanatic” is a good word. It does not have the full in-depth meaning that I would like, but does provide a better view of the the depth of my interest and how seriously I take it.
For now, I guess I won’t claim any definitive label, though I’m sure I’ll keep wondering about this whenever I meet someone new and I’m introduced as a “Civil War buff.” Hopefully one day I’ll have done enough to earn a title like “scholar” or “historian” though that may be a bit too ambitious.
“A rose by any other name is still a rose” and no matter which label may be given me, I may claim or that may seem wrong, my obsession for this timeframe in United States history lives on and hopefully will do so well into the future.
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