Monday, May 12, 2014

Illinois vs. Texas – Maybe we should send fake leg to Mexico, instead! But would they refuse its return?

I don’t get the concept of military “trophies,” as in soldiers in combat taking on morbid items so as show how interesting their experiences were.

The 'leg' that has officials ...
I still remember the site a few years ago of photographs taken of U.S. soldiers who captured the palace where Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had lived. Some went so far as to pose for pictures on Saddam’s bed, while holding their weapons and clothed in full combat garb.

MOMENTS LIKE THIS crop up in every military conflict. There are many so-called trophies in existence.

And one of those trophies is now the focus of a spat between interests in Texas and in downstate Springfield – one that has been written up in the Dallas Morning News and Chicago Tribune, along with dispatches by the Associated Press.

It’s Santa Anna’s leg. As in General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.

The Mexican army general who crushed a dinky band of Texas rebels at the Alamo in 1836, but then allowed himself to personally get captured by their allies just two weeks later, later in life lost a leg in combat.

IT WAS IN line with Santa Anna’s ego that he had the crushed (and dead) remains of his leg buried with full military honors. And got it replaced with a wooden prosthetic.

Which, during the Mexican/American War of 1845-47, he managed to lose. The prosthetic device was found by U.S. soldiers from Illinois, who brought it back home with them.

... in Springfield quarreling ...
For many years, one of those soldiers had the leg on display in his home in downstate Pekin. Then it moved along to the Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield.

Operated by the Illinois National Guard as a way of promoting the military accomplishments of soldiers from Illinois in various military conflicts throughout the years, the leg is considered one of the museum’s key artifacts.

MY OWN MEMORY of the museum from when I lived in Springfield for a seven-year stretch was that it was a small building that was easy to miss unless you knew exactly what you were looking for. And that leg is really about the only artifact they have that was even the least bit intriguing.

... w/ counterparts in San Jacinto.
In short, I don’t think it’s that big a deal.

But I seem to be alone on this point. For the San Jacinto Museum of History (the Texas town near which Santa Anna was captured and Texians were able to pressure him to grant independence from Mexico to the Lone Star State) is making a big deal out of wanting to borrow the leg.

They want to put it on display to further enhance the idea that they still have a piece of Santa Anna. But Illinois museum officials are acting like the petulant six-year-old who never learned how to share.

TEXANS EVEN WENT so far as to use that convoluted Internet petition process the White House created by which they can force the president to issue a response on the issue.

We have a situation that truly is a silly fight between the states – Lincoln vs. Lone Star. Personally, I’m not sure who’s being more ridiculous. As much as I’d like to defend my home state, I don’t think I can.

A part of me thinks that if anyone ought to have possession of the leg, it ought to be someone with Mexico’s interests. Send it back home!
What would general think of fake leg?
Except that within Mexican history, Santa Anna’s record isn’t all that clear. He had some positive moments during terms he served as Mexico’s president.

BUT HE ALSO is regarded as the inept buffoon who allowed himself to get captured and thereby lost Texas as a Mexican state, and who later was responsible at least in part for Mexico’s inability to defend itself from U.S. invaders (remember the first line of the “Marine Corps Hymn?”) in the Mexican-American War.

He spent various parts of his life living in exile in Jamaica, Colombia, Cuba and even Staten Island in the United States, and was tried for treason by Mexico in absentia.

Send the leg back to Mexico? It probably would get refused and stamped “Return to Sender. Address Unknown."

This is one war relic that probably best would have been lost decades ago, to be eaten by termites.


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