Category Archives: history

My Life In History

A Century Turns: New Hopes, New FearsA Century Turns: New Hopes, New Fears is Bill Bennett’s latest book of current American History in a series that loosely includes the more formal series America: The Last Best Hope.

A Century Turns chronicles the last 20 years of American socio-political history from the perspective of a proud, cautious, involved, and hopeful American.

When picking up history books one expects to find events with which they cannot relate. I didn’t live during the Battle of the Bulge any more than I did the War of 1812. And there is a significant disconnect which makes study of history a true study, and not just an experience.

A Century Turns tells history, but the one telling is one who was there, one who was involved in the choices that shaped our country and the world as we know them today. And the story is one I lived through.

Perhaps my earliest memory of political affairs was the inauguration of George Bush, the senior. I remember watching on television as he spoke and watching him ride and walk in the parade from the Capital to the White House. I was 6 then.

When I started working at 14 I spent a lot of time listening to Rush Limbaugh on his original station, News Talk 1530 KFBK out of Sacramento. I was aware of events and began to be involved in them on a local level, writing letters to the editor of our local rag, speaking at City Counsel meetings. The events of the last 20 years are all memories to me. And Bennett wrote about them as history.

From the LA Riots to the OJ Simpson debacle. From the home grown terrorist acts of the 90’s to the growth of Islamic jihad to it’s breaking point over our shores and on our peace-seeking psyches. From the dalliances of politicians in the Democratic party to the indiscretions of politicians in the Republican party. Bennett chronicles the currents that have shaped our world so severely and significantly in the last 20 years.

I get the sense, reading old history, that the world changes slowly. It’s massive weight fighting change with inertia. And yet, in just my own brief lifespan so much has changed. From the dominant social theories to the scrappy upcoming ideas, change is coming fast.

One thing the book lacks, but not from purposeful omission, is the sense that history is perhaps always like that. While it is true that the more things change the more they stay the same, it is also true that things change. And some that is lost in that change can never be brought back.

A Century Turns is an excellent book for contextualizing the history of the lifetimes of me and my peers. It helps to see how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go.

Bennett ends with the election of then Senator Barak Obama to the office of the President of the United States of America:

There was a deep recession in the land. There were unfinished wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri were still alive. Russia was flexing its muscles. And a new president, with a new approach to the country and the world, would take the reins of power with new hopes and new fears on many sides of him and the country he was charged to lead.

Finding Proof In Silence

What is truth?

Perusing Hulu this morning I saw a National Geographic series “Mysteries of the Bible“.  Considering the source is National Geographic I didn’t have much hope for the accuracy of the show but I started watching the first available episode anyway.

Episode 2 purports to investigate the historicity of the nativity narrative.

With an authoritative voice, the narrator begins a list of “fact” after “fact” intended to disprove the majority of the story of the birth of Christ.

Using phrases like “most historians” and an awful lot of “but’s”, the show, in the first 5 minutes, proceeded to claim that because only two gospels mention the nativity narrative and those two mention different aspect of the narrative, they must be disagreeing.

Just a thought experiment here: If my wife and I were to describe a trip we took together and I mentioned how beautiful the scenery was on the drive and she mentioned how pleasant it was at the lake we visited as our destination, would our two stories, through their difference, contradict each others?

I thought not.

Apparently, because one the the gospels only mentions the shepherds and another gospel mentions the wise men, and only one of the gospels mentions that there was a census that prompted Mary and Joseph’s trek to Bethlehem, those stories must be figments of the minds of the individual writers.

Using interviews with only a couple “experts” looking and sounding so very authoritative with their reasonable words, the show uses shoddy historical research. Actually I take that back, the show doesn’t even bother checking the historical proofs. The only document they use to support the nativity narrative is the Bible, which they’re trying mightily to disprove. If they can taint the Bible, they’ll have won the argument without a fight.

The problem is that there are a plethora of authoritative sources besides the Bible which can corroborate the historicity of not just the bare fact of Jesus’ birth, but the additional and critical details as well.

National Geographic knows the average viewer will not notice the lack of factual analysis. They know the average viewer tunes into the TV and turns off their mind, accepting anything and everything reported as fact, as fact. There is no critical thinking, no analysis.

This is a cherry picking attempt to discredit the Bible and one of the core narratives it contains. And it may end of shaking the faith of some credulous souls.

For my part I could only stomach 10 minutes of the show, and the logical fallacies, the complete and utter lack of historical data presented, the lack of alternate opinions presented all pointed to this being a hack job so overwhelmingly I couldn’t push myself to watch the rest.

Review: American Patriot’s Almanac

The American Patriot's AlmanacWords mean things, and ideas have consequences.

If you don’t agree with the above statement, The American Patriot’s Almanac will be just one more collection of quaint sayings by old and dead men.

Euripides is said to have said “The tongue is mightier than the blade”, and the words held within this book show the people who uttered them believed these words true. And often held the sword in defense of theirs and others tongues.

The American Patriot’s Almanac is more than simply a collection of sayings and quotes and factoids. It contains history, some of it stories I already knew, some of it containing fresh jewels I’d not previously known.

From the story of the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, the nation’s first conference on women’s rights, to the story of James Forten, the free-born grandson of slaves who grew up through the birth of America. He spent time as a prisoner of war. He worked his way up through a company until he owned it. He developed new technology to ease the job of sailors managing the sails. He organized protective brigades of black Americans to defend Philadelphia during the war of 1812, and he was instrumental starting the American Anti-Slavery Society.

The American Patriot’s Almanac will be a valuable addition to the library, bathroom reading shelf, or coffee table of any patriot interested in knowing more about the roots of America and it’s liberty.

Truth Has No Chance

I’ve read several articles thanks to links from bloggers and news pages which claim that the ‘first’ Thanksgiving was nothing but the orgies of Europeans occupying the homes and tilling the fields of the deceased tribes of Native Americans killed by disease brought by previous settlers.

I do not dispute the fact that lack of understanding regarding disease and its transmission and the dangers of introducing societies to new bacteria and germs without proper inoculation contributed to great sickness and death of the Native Americans. But do we judge history for what we know or for what they knew?

Are we to be judged for our lack of understanding about something which lead, through that ignorance, to some loss, or for the fact that we attempt to mitigate the loss and mend the ill where we encounter it?

But beyond that.

I’ve read the entirety of the journal of William Bradford, governor of the colony at Plymouth. In the evidence fields that is called a primary source. There are few sources indeed which would countermand his testimony and then only with a preponderence of testimony sharply contradictory to his own.

And yet even the stories I read in the enlightened media were stretches and extentions of certain facts to the exclusion of others and themselves did not contradict the crux of the history laid down by Bradford.

Yes, many of the Native Americans in the area of Plymouth were wiped out by disease just prior to the arrival of the Pilgrims. Yes, the Plymouth settlers used the fallow-lying fields and empty shelters of the deceased Native Americans to aid them in their survival. I think from our posh couches and deep cushions we are unable to relate to the deep fear of the complete unknown and the pain of true hunger experienced by those brave adventurers and we judge them be a standard we, even with our comforts and conveniences would not judge ourselves by given a situation not half so bad as they experienced.

What were they to do with the empty and waiting fields and shelters? Out of principle were they to dig fresh fields beside the fallow ones and out of misguided respect leave the tents of the Natives standing as empty monuments to a culture they had little to do directly with damaging?

I think not.

And moving to a different tack: In the face of the socialist pushes of our government, is it not telling that even with such paltry feed at a few kernels of corn and with the ethics of a strong religious faith, the early pilgrims, laboring undering a falsly hopeful system of common holdings and cooperative farming were falling prey to the exact same lethargy which would so cripple the vastly wealthy Russion communist experiment.

The reasons were there: doing right and acute starvation. The resources were there: a fertile land and skilled and willing workers. And yet, when they did not directly control the resources of production nor own the fruits of their own labors these men and women worked without will or vigor and many lives were lost.

If we cannot accept the facts of history when the controvert our own closely held presuppositions regarding the nature of the world, is there any hope for us to learn from the mistakes of our forebearers?

When the truth is not accepted, do we have a chance?