Competing, Fighting between Friends and Brothers


Aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863

War and competition are often paired in metaphor and used interchangeably to describe the intensity of striving by two separate entities to gain the same objective.  War can sometimes be the more frightening of the two, but not always.  When I was a child the American Civil War was still discussed as living event, not a vague historical oddity. It still resonated because almost every family had a story of the war’s impact on the family, often because each had had combatants on both sides – it was a war fought not just between to regions of the country, but also between brothers of the same family.  They were sad stories of painful memories; in a sense all wars are wars between brothers if we accept the modern DNA findings that relate all human beings on the planet to two individuals who lived in Africa between 50,00 and 70,000 years ago. However, when the combantants and their families know each other by name it is much closer, more personal and more painful.

This week the state of Pennsylvania is holding hearings to determine which location and operator will get the state’s remaining gaming license.  One of the sites competing is Gettysburg – and as one might expect, there is strong support on both sides, including veterans of the wars of the 20th century – the last veteran of the Civil War was Walter Williams, a veteran of the confederate army who died in 1959.  There is much angry rhetoric, a fitting relic of a brothers’ war; one side sites the economy and the need for jobs, taxes and hope, the other side counters with the history of area and the sacred nature of a place where brothers bled and died – it is a nations shrine to our anger at each other.

In Colorado a series of events is unfolding in what also might be termed a civil war, battles between two groups that are normally part of the same whole.  Black Hawk, Colorado is a town with casinos, the largest casinos in the state – the casinos in Black Hawk are bigger, generate more revenue and clearly dominate the gaming industry in Colorado.  They also own the high ground in battle for gamblers.  Black Hawk is the closest to town to Denver and therefore gets the first shot at the customers that come from Denver to the mountain casinos – and that would be 99 percent of the gamblers in Black Hawk or its sister town, Central City,  a little further down the road and just that little bit farther from Denver.  But that little bit is the difference and translates into casino revenues, and consequently city revenues,  many times greater in Black Hawk than Central City.

Until last year the two towns had a friendly agreement whereby Black Hawk helped Central City provide some basic services.  But suddenly last spring the city of Black Hawk changed its mind and stopped funding the services, one at a time.  This week, the last service, a shuttle that ferried gamblers around the two towns and between casinos  got the ax.  A shuttle service is a very important service in the mountains of Colorado, especially in the winter.   Not surprisingly, the city officials and casino operators of Central City are crying foul; they are claiming it is revenge for firing the wife of the mayor of Black Hawk.  The officials in Black Hawk told them to get over that the decision was based on the economy and competition for market share – you know all is fair in love and war?

No point, except to say that when time get really tough and the competition gets really intense friends can become enemies overnight and even brothers may be willing to fight to the death. As a battle intensifies the line between friend and foe narrows; fighting to survive is about survival, a personal issue and one that may not recognize any entity larger than the individual.  The good citizens of Black Hawk are willing to sacrifice the good citizens of Central City for the higher good – survival.  But then some of the good citizens of Gettysburg are willing sacrifice the most hallowed grounds of the civil war for higher good of economic prosperity.  Next year Congress will be starting the budget wars, I wonder what cherished ground each side will be willing to sacrifice for good of country?  Pray we do not begin sacrificing each other to protect our own version of hallowed ground.


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November 2010
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