Showing posts with label American History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label American History. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Rise and Fall of Jamestown

Cultivation of Tobacco at Jamestown - Photo: Wikimedia
In the early 1600s, an English preacher named Alexander Whitaker described a land where winters were dry and fair, forests were filled with “rare and delectable birds”, and rivers abounded with fish great and small. His essay was entitled “Good News from Virginia”.  Through this writing, the preacher helped recruit Englishmen to live in what was called the New World.

However, many who followed Whitaker’s advice became sorely disappointed. Ten years later, a man named Richard Frethorne would write from Virginia, “I have nothing to comfort me, nor is there nothing to be gotten here but sickness and death.” Whitaker’s description of the territory had been accurate, but settlers soon realized that it was no place for unprepared Englishmen.

In 1607, about 100 male settlers sailed from England to the Virginia territory, which was owned by the for-profit Virginia Company of London. Unlike later colonists, these men were “gentlemen adventurers” primarily interested in finding gold; farming and the creation of community were neither their skills nor their priorities. Many were accustomed to having servants back in England, and they were not equipped inability or spirit to forge a new life in the wilderness.

When the men arrived on behalf of the Virginia Company, they decided to settle land alongside a river in the Chesapeake Bay. They dubbed this the James River, and they named their colony Jamestown in honor of King James I. 

In several ways, the men selected their land well. First, they were nestled far enough upstream to avoid an ocean attack from the Spanish, who were competing for resources.

Second, the James River provided a quick escape route in case native people attacked.

Third, the river was a useful transportation route for supplies.

What went wrong in such a location, where “delectable birds” and fish were abundant? One problem occurred during high tide. Salt water poured from the Atlantic into the James River, and men who drank this became ill. The swampy area was also a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which spread fatal diseases including malaria, typhoid fever, and dysentery. Furthermore, the men did not know how to farm this sort of land. Their food supplies quickly ran out, forcing them to roast rodents and dogs and turn to cannibalism.

By 1609, only about 60 of 300 eventual colonists had evaded starvation, deadly disease, and attacks by natives. Thereafter, the winter of 1609-1610 was referred to as “the starving time”.

The Virginia Company soon regarded Jamestown as a near failure. They decided that a new sort of man must be sent overseas – not the gentlemen adventurer in search of easy gold, but the hardworking man who could actively contribute to a new society. Thus in 1609, the company began sending indentured servants to Virginia. The terms of servitude included five to seven years of unpaid labor, but in return, servants would receive supplies for a new life of freedom: 100 acres of land, clothes, tools, and weapons.

This strategy was initially promising as wealthy men convinced their servants to move overseas. These wealthy settlers received fifty acres per servant brought, so they quickly amassed large plantations. They learned to grow tobacco, which they promptly shipped to London. Within ten years, the settlers had developed a strong European tobacco market, and the crop became Virginia’s main source of income. Women, both free and enslaved, joined the men. Jamestown started to reflect English society a bit more, but in many ways, it remained a chaotic campsite.



Ultimately, about 14,000 people participated in the Jamestown experiment. However, the death rate from Indian confrontations and disease remained extremely high. In 1624, King James dissolved the Virginia Company and converted the territory to a royal colony.

Jamestown served as the capital of Virginia throughout the 17th century. In the 21st century, tourists can visit the site of the settlers’ fort, tour a museum, and ride the Jamestown Ferry for a view similar to that seen 400 years ago by the ill-prepared gentlemen adventurers. 




Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Jordon and Ali

Muhammed Ali - Photo: Pixabay
Throughout black history, great black athletes have served as role models to America’s youth, in a way that may not have been possible for others leaders.  And to be sure, some of these great heroes of athletics have become virtually godlike to all sports fans, not just those in the black community.  Michael Jordon’s ability on the basketball field during his career at times seems to be virtually superhuman.  And the career of Mohammed Ali sent such a powerful message of black pride to black and white America that he virtually transformed the social perception of the black man through sheer talent and attitude.

Before Mohammed Ali came along, the idea of a black boxer, even a very good black boxer becoming such a central figure for black pride seemed unlikely.  But Ali demonstrated something to the youth of the African American community that was so inspirational that it helped to transform their worldview like no other public figure could have done.  

With his swagger and braggadocio, Ali stood out as a proud black man in such a way that had never been seen before.  His use of rhyme with such phrases as “I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee” to his self-promotion maintaining “I’m pretty”, that sent a message to black and white admirer alike.  And that message was loud and clear.  Ali was black and he was proud and other black men and women in America have just as much reason to be proud as he was.

This was an important message because coming out of years of oppression, it was sometimes difficult for black youth to gain a sense of pride and the self-assurance needed to get out there and be a success.  It took the work of great black role models such as Mohammed Ali to let them know that it is allowable for you to be proud and to be great as well.  For Ali didn’t back up his claims with just boasts.  He was truly a great black athlete as well.  So when Ali bragged that he was “pretty”, he showed that the way he fought truly was a thing of beauty.

Michael Jordon -  Photo: Wikipedia
That same excellence and how it has been used to inspire the black community can be found in the phenomenal career of Michael Jordon.  In the same way that Ali’s talent seemed to eclipse even the genre of boxing, Jordon was so phenomenal at basketball that he became an icon of excellence and skill and a role model for black youth across the country.  Both of these men recognized that God had given them this tremendous talent and the opportunities to reach their potential.  And they worked hard to be a role model to their community so others would be inspired to be their best as well.  

Moreover, great black sports heroes also provided healing by setting a high standard of excellence for sports fans of all races to admire.  It wasn’t just black sports fans who adored the work of Mohammed Ali and Michael Jordon.  They became true heroes to anyone to whom sports was an important part of life.

Sport is an arena where men and woman can come to socialize and find common ground.  Like entertainment, there is a world of sports that make comrades of all who enjoy the exploits of sports heroes whether on the baseball diamond, the football field, the boxing arena or the basketball stadium.  And sports fans have a standard that they value their heroes that is based on talent, achievement, and ability to do that one thing everybody in sports admires – to be a winner.  And Mohammed Ali and Michael Jordon were certainly the embodiment of great black men who were also in every way winners.  And we all admire that regardless of race, color or creed.




Monday, August 20, 2018

The 22nd Amendment

On February 27th, 1951, the 22nd amendment was ratified which made permanent a tradition that has a profound influence on the philosophy of government in the United States of America.  This amendment may not be the most well-known amendment but its place in the fabric of American history cannot be overstated.  That is because the 22nd Amendment mandated that…

No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.

The limitation of service as President of the United States to two terms was one that up until the 22nd amendment was more a matter of custom than law.  It began when George Washington refused to run for a third term.  But by making the limitation of power in the presidency in the 22nd amendment, the American people made a bold statement about how their government would be run.

One of the most unique aspects of how the United States of America organized its government was the concept of citizen rulers.  This concept was born in the very halls and pubs where the founding fathers gathered to discuss this new country that was just getting started.  By reducing the idea of a “career politician”, especially at the presidential level, the 22nd amendment dealt a deadly blow to the concept that America would ever be ruled by a king or a “president for life.”

This was clearly a reaction by America to the abuses that had witnessed by the pilgrims and immigrants that make up this great country in their homelands.  They reacted strongly and negatively to the deification of kings and the virtually unlimited powers that too many times systems of royalty tended to give to their leadership.  This was one of the central themes that caused so many to flee Europe, Central Asia and other parts of the world to seek a land where it was the people who were the center of the governments will, not the arbitrary ideas of a king who was cut off from the real needs of the people he served.

The way America set up its presidency was in every way an attempt to “fix” the flaws and abuses of the European models and refocus the center of power in government on the electorate rather than on the elected.  Another aspect of the American federal system that was put in place deliberately to limit the ability of those in power to abuse that power is the system of checks and balances.  This system assures that none of the branches of government, The Congress, the Presidency or the Supreme Court could dominate the other or take complete power and rule without challenge.  By ensuring that all in power had to answer to the opposing party and be prepared to answer to the American people for what they did and even said, this completely eliminated that chances that one part of the government would stage a “coup” over the other.



Accountability is a word that is not very exciting but it is the concept that has kept the American system of government healthy and in service to its people rather than putting them in service for over 200 years.  

In addition to these several highly innovative methods the founding fathers gave to this young country to eliminate the abuses of past governmental systems, they also put a system in place that assured the orderly transition of power.  The system of elections every two years stopped two evils, the occurrence of a politician who served for life without accountability and a system wherein the only way to lose your job in government was by violent overthrow.  As a result of the American system, albeit contentious and argumentative, has been and continues to be one of the most peaceful and orderly systems of federal administration in the world and indeed in the history of the world.




Saturday, August 11, 2018

History Of The American Flag Explained

American Flag
It was on January 1, 1776, that the Continental army was restructured and adjusted according to a Congressional resolution which heralded American forces to the command of George Washington. On that day, the American Continental Army was blockading Boston which had been taken over by the British army. It has been said that the first American flag was made in May of 1776 by Betsy Ross, a Philadelphia seamstress who was actually a friend of George Washington and acquainted with other prominent and high-ranking Philadelphians.

Ross suggested that the five-pointed star is used instead of the star with six points. This is because the five-pointed star can be cut off easily with a few trims of the scissors. It is also said that Betsy Ross was the one who made the flags for the Pennsylvanian navy. However, the first unofficial flag of America was called the Grand Union Flag, also known as the Continental Colors. It was raised at the order and command of General Washington close to his headquarters outside Boston January 1, 1776. This first unofficial flag was composed of thirteen alternating white and red horizontal stripes, with the British Union Flag in the canton. However, the first official American flag was accepted by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. This flag was also known as the Stars and Stripes for it consisted of 13 stars which represented the first 13 colonies. However, there is no assurance of who actually designed and made this flag. It is said that it was Francis Hopkinson, a Continental Congress member, designed the flag.

However, between 1777 and 1960, the Congress implemented procedures that varied its shape, design, and structure of the flag. And it was decided that there was a need for additional starts to represent all the states of America. It was on January 3, 1959, that President Eisenhower issued an executive order which states that the arrangement of the stars should be in six horizontal rows of eight, every single point of every star directed upward. In 1791 and 1792, after Kentucky and Vermont were added to the Union, two stars and two stripes were added during 1795.



This brought inspiration to lawyer Francis Scott Key to write and compose a poem which later became the U.S. National Anthem. It was in 1818 that five more states had been added and declared and the Congress decided to pass legislation that fixes the number of stars and stripes. The stars would have equal numbers as the states. On July 4, 1960, the last new star was added after Hawaii became a state, which gives a total number of fifty stars. The American Flag has been the emblem of the nation’s power and harmony for more than 200 years. It serves as the binding material that brings millions of citizens together in attaining one goal.






Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Cold War

Photo: Wikimedia
When we look back over the span of centuries that represents American history, it is easy to call out major military engagements which represent the major wars of this country.  From World War II to the Civil War to Korea to World War I, America has been involved in many military engagements and emerged victorious in all but a few of them.  But one of the strangest, longest lasting wars that America has entered into was the one that was called “The Cold War”.

For many Americas living today, The Cold War was a fact of life for decades.  The reason it was a cold war was that there was no battlefield, no armies on deployment, nobody counts and no major engagements to report.  Instead, it was a long period of silent animosity between the United States and the Soviet Union that lasted from the end of World War II up to the early 1990s.  

The strange thing was that the cold war grew out of our relationship with the Soviet Union during World War II which was a relationship of friendship.  But the seeds of the “conflict” were in place at the end of that horrible war.  With the presence of nuclear technology, the concept of a “superpower” was born.  This was not itself a source of tension until the Soviet Union themselves developed the bomb as well and a long cold standoff ensued in which both nations trained thousands of these weapons on each other to warn the other that they must never consider firing those weapons.  

It was a staring contest that lasted almost fifty years and created a tremendous drain on both economies.  Both countries had to maintain “parity” of their nuclear weapons so neither country got more than the other thus throwing off the balance of power and giving one combatant an unfair advantage.  This was a strange logic in that both countries possessed enough weaponry to destroy the earth dozens of times over but still they insisted on “having parity” throughout the cold war.

It was clear that no battle between the Soviet Union and America could ever be tolerated.  The potential outcome of engaging those weapons had the power to destroy life on planet earth.  But neither country was prepared to lay down their arms and begin the process of making peace with the other.  So the weapons continued to point at each other, day after day, year after year, for fifty years.



So instead of conducting battles directly, the two countries fought each other through small wars around the world.  The Soviet Unions, working with China happily contributed to the humiliating loss in Vietnam that the United States endured.  But the United States then turned around and armed the Afghan Mujahideen which lead to the defeat of the Soviet Union in their occupation of that country.  From proxy wars, the space race, and occasional face-offs such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cold War continued for decades testing the will and resolve of both countries never to look away and give the other the advantage.

Finally, the pressure on the economies of the two countries took its toll in the early 1990s, particularly in the Soviet Union as the stress of sustaining such an expensive and unproductive war forced the Soviet economy into collapse and the empire broke up.  The United States had won the cold war by sheer will to endure and stubborn refusal to give in.  This is a seldom spoken of an element of the American spirit but it is one that the Soviets learned to their own disaster not to test.  Hopefully, no other “superpower” will ever think they are equipped to test it again.

And what is the situation today (2018) ???






Wednesday, June 27, 2018

America's Spiritual History: The Impulse That Gave Birth To A Nation

Photo: Wikimedia
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for a people to assert its right to freely exist as an independent society, unhampered by restrictions by a governmental authority that is far away and that does not have its best interests at heart, then it behooves that society and that people to express, in words that are clear and cogent, the reasons for its removal from the authority which it has labored under.  

This removal, rather than being an act of defiance and provocation, is an act of self-affirmation and of positive movement toward a future in which the governed shall govern their own communities and society, and in which the voice of the people shall be heard.  

There can be no just government without this kind of representation and without this kind of flow between government and governed, and to this end the Republic of the United States of America must seek to separate itself from the ruling authority of Britain, whose history, culture, purpose, and expectations are very different from our own, and who, in the opinion of many, hold and seek to perpetuate policies that are deleterious to the wellbeing of the newly-founded communities of this young Republic.

We ask the people of the world who observe this time with us, to rest assured that we are not making a declaration against monarchy or against any other kind of leadership or rulership that works effectively and justly to serve the needs of the people.  We are stating an underlying principle firmly, clearly, and with specific intention, namely, that government must proceed with the consent of the governed in order to be just, and that the process of representation of those who are governed by those whom they choose to represent them is an essential and critical part of any just and stable society.

We ask the people of the world to recognize our newly burgeoning efforts at self-government and self-representation, so that we may join with other peoples in common purpose, and so that we may create communication with our neighbors and friends that may be mutually beneficial.  The fact that we are newly founded and are an offshoot of a nation with a great and proud history, does not mean that we must be identified solely with these historical roots.  Rather, we seek to be identified on our own terms in relation to what we can offer to others at this point in time, and what others can offer to us.  

We extend our hands in friendship to the peoples of the world who seek justice and freedom for their societies and peoples, and declare that we will not rest, we will not lower our advancing interest in liberty and justice, until every citizen of this newly founded Republic of America shall feel that they are adequately represented in a government of their choosing and that their voice can and will be heard.  It is only by bringing the ultimate authority of choice back to the people who are governed that a truly democratic society can exist, and it is with this aim in mind that we set forth these principles today, that shall henceforth be known as the Declaration of Independence.







Friday, June 15, 2018

When America Proved that Anything is Possible

Apollo 11 - Photo: Wikipedia
It was one of those moments in American history that the people who were able to watch it for the first time felt like they were in a science fiction movie.  But with televisions cameras on every move, the nation and the world watched on July 20, 1969, as three American astronauts landed on the moon.  

The project had been in the works for years to be sure.  You have to wonder with the phenomenal amount of work, expert engineering and the amazing genius that created the rocket ships and everything that would be needed to make the flight possible, if even those in NASA sat in mute wonder and had goosebumps when “Buzz” Aldren was the first man in history to put his foot on another world and pronounce those famous words –

“That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”

That phrase, which itself was carefully prepared, has a lot of wisdom in it.  Sure, touching another world for the first time in human history was a tremendous accomplishment for America.  But more than that, it signaled a new era for humankind everywhere.  All of a sudden, the moon wasn’t a faraway myth, full of mystery and magic.  All of a sudden, people everywhere felt like they too could touch the stars if they put out their best efforts too.  

It was also a huge moment for the unity of all people.  Few things cause the world population to come together and link arms and be one people, not separate countries.  Most of the time, it’s a terrible global disaster that makes us all bond together.  But this time was different.  This time it was a moment so phenomenal that everybody stopped and watched and everybody knew that this was not just a great accomplishment for three astronauts and scientists that put them there.  This was a great accomplishment for mankind.

American history is populated with tremendous events, both bad and good.  But it’s worth a moment to sit back and reflect on what the first moon landing meant and continues to mean for Americans and the American spirit.  You have to wonder if any other nation would have had the ability, the creative powers, the powerful minds and the collective will to see this kind of amazing accomplishment through to success.  

It’s even more amazing when you remember that just a few years earlier, on September 12, 1962, that President Kennedy challenged American to rise to this challenge in a speech at Rice University.  It takes a lot to make something as historic and earth-shaking as landing on the moon a reality and visionary leadership such as Kennedy showed that day was a big part of why this landing made history.



This amazing achievement points out something outstanding about the American spirit.  Americans are a people who dream big.  And to land, a man on the moon took big dreams.  But we didn’t just dream to put a man up there, it was not acceptable unless we got everybody home safely as well.  

For the most part, the American space program has had a phenomenal history of success in breaking through barriers that nobody had ever done before.  Yes, there have been setbacks and tragedies along the way.  But Americans are not quitters and through all the struggles we face, we face them together.  But we never forget to look up at the stars and dream of the day that yet again we see an American set foot on another world and plant out the flag in that soil to be signal forever that America was here!




Thursday, May 31, 2018

The American Cowboy

Cowboy - Photo: Wikimedia
Americans have a unique vision of themselves and their role in the world.  Unlike perhaps any other peoples in history, Americans see themselves as people of destiny and a people who were put here to do something phenomenal and something significant for history and for all peoples of the earth.  This unique self-concept, sometimes perceived as arrogance, is deeply grounded in a set of archetypes that Americans use to form their vision of themselves in the world.  And no other archetype is as powerful in the American psyche than that of the cowboy.

The actual American cowboy was indeed a unique individual.  While probably not as noble and ruggedly handsome as the images created of him in the movies, they were unique types of men who carved out a civilization from the rugged wilderness that was the American West in the years before the turn of the last century.

Some of the reasons that the image of the cowboy sometimes includes elements of the outlaw and the loner is that much of the legend of the cowboy came from stories of refugees from the broken southern army who took to the life of the cowboy rather than attempt to integrate into a society that included making peace with “the Yankee”.  And that type of individual certainly did account for many of the outlaws who went on to become the stuff of legend and stories even to this day.

The renegade and loner image combined with the rough life of an actual cowboy whose job it was to guide those huge herds of cattle along trails such as the historic Cumberland trail where they could be sold to become the steaks, leather and other goods that were sold in rustic American stores of the time.  This was a difficult life and the stories of the trail make up many history books for sure.  But far more of the stories of the trail are glorifications of that lifestyle that must have been difficult indeed.

But the image of the cowboy was also something that grew larger than what the actual lifestyle of those simple but rugged men must have lived in the American West.  It was an image that pulled together heroes as far-flung as the Australian Gaucho cowboy, the Japanese Samurai and a knight in King Arthur’s court.  It was an image of a man who demonstrated the rugged individualism that all Americans consider to be one of the central unifying traits that make America great. 

The cowboy image is one that even has its influence as high in the social strata of America that it influences the presidency.  It is said that there is a tradition for any president when he first is elected and comes to Washington to begin learning this big new job.  Tradition holds that each president has as part of their early duties to sit down and watch the movie High Noon.  They say that President Clinton watched it dozens of times in his early years.  If this is true, it accounts for how often a new president seems to grow and change in the office and becomes his own version of the great American hero that is depicted in that movie.  The American cowboy defends the virtue of the weak and helpless.  He is a staunch defender of families and those in society who are trying to carve out a home in a difficult world.  As such, the American cowboy fits with the “superhero” image that also appeals to the American system of justice and morality and values.



Even the star wars epic films were fundamentally grounded in the legend of the cowboy.  The cowboy concept grew up from a history of our country that included the settling of a big land and the settling of a wilderness that pit the god given will and intellect of man against God’s creation.  And it was the will of man that prevailed.  That is why American’s admire the cowboy because he represents their own struggles for greatness, for success and to be a heroic figure at least for their families, hometowns and churches.  And that desire so deeply rooted in the culture of American history will always be what makes America and Americans great.




Thursday, May 10, 2018

Remember the Alamo

Fall of Alamo - Photo: Wikipedia
America remembers many great battles that represent a turning point in a conflict that helped shaped our history.  We think of D-Day in World War II that turned the tide of victory toward the allies despite horrific losses.  But it is a unique battle that is remembered with pride and patriotism but is also a battle that was lost and almost everybody on our side brutally killed.  But that was the case in the battle for the Alamo in 1863.

The battle for the Alamo was not a conventional battle in the sense of two equally matched armies fighting back and forth to retain the property.  It was, to put it bluntly, a slaughter.  But the brave stand of those few hundred Texans against thousands of Mexican soldiers continues to inspire us today because it was a stand against impossible odds but it was a stand that reflected the American ethic of never giving up or surrendering when there is a principle to be defended.

The siege at the Alamo actually lasted thirteen days.  It began on February 23, 1863, and it was over by March 6th.  It is hard to imagine today, with Mexico to our south a trusted ally of the United States but this was a battle to stop that attempts by Mexico to invade the newly forming country of the United States which was an act of war to be sure.  The brave men who stood against that vast army have become American icons of bravery and the American spirit and the names listed among those killed in that fort included Davy Crocket, Jim Bowie, the commander of the unit Lieutenant Colonel William B. Travis.  It was Travis that inspired his men to fight against insurmountable odds and his courage is what we celebrate whenever we say that famous rallying cry that comes out of this battle which was “Remember the Alamo.”  Travis wrote in a letter how he defied the Mexican attackers on the eve of the final siege.

I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna.  I have sustained a continual Bombardment and cannonade for 24 hours and have not lost a man.  The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison is to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken.  I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls.  I shall never surrender or retreat.  I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country.  Victory or Death.



It was this brave stand that actually turned the war against this invading army to the advantage of the Americans.  The outrage from the slaughter of these men inspired that famous rallying cry that we remember even now centuries later when we hear those words “Remember the Alamo”.  Their stand against Santa Anna gave Sam Houston the time to organize a much more potent army which went on to deliver to Santa Anna a stunning defeat at San Jacinto which was the turning point for Texas which went on from there to victory in this war.

The spirit of Texas was never the same and to this day, Texas prides itself as a people of particular courage, boldness, and a unique independence that even sets them apart from the already fiercely independent American spirit.  Moreover, the entire nation looks to this battle as an example of how a few good men helped deliver a victory, even if it was at the cost of their own lives.  That indeed is the true spirit of patriotism.




Sunday, May 6, 2018

Did Colorado Kill Doc Holliday

Doc Holliday - Photo: Wikimedia
John Henry “Doc” Holliday’s final words, spoken as he lay dying in the Hotel Glenwood in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, were “this is funny”. We’ll never know, of course, exactly what the Wild West legend meant by this. Perhaps he found it ironic that after a life spent tempting death in the gambling dens of the American frontier, it was, at last, his 15-year long battle with tuberculosis that had killed him. But while it is certainly true that TB was the ultimate cause of his death, it may have had an accomplice…the state of Colorado itself. 

Doc was born in Georgia in 1851. His mother died of tuberculosis when he was only 15, and it is likely that he contracted the disease from her. It lay dormant long enough for him to complete his classical education and graduate from Dentistry school before symptoms began to appear. After his diagnosis he was told he had a few months, perhaps a year, to live. He was 20 years old. 

Climate was the only treatment anyone could recommend for tuberculosis in the middle of the 19th century. Seeking drier, hotter weather, Doc went west. Dying or not, he still had to make a living. Good dental hygiene, however, was not a priority for most cowboys, so Doc decided to try his hand at gambling.

Some historians have suggested that Doc deliberately put himself in harms way over the course of his life out of a desire to die a quick, if bloody, death rather than waste away as the result of his disease. Whether or not this is true, he certainly seemed to have the Devil’s luck (good or bad) protecting him. Though he was sickly, scrawny, famously quarrelsome and habitually in a state if of mortal danger, he always managed to survive.

Holliday has passed into legend as one of America’s most fearsome, steely-eyed gunslingers. But though he is credited with the killing of many men, these stories have no historical evidence. In truth, the one and only documented case of Doc killing anybody was at the infamous Gunfight at the OK Corral, when he shot Tom McLaury with a double-barrel shotgun at close range…hardly a feat the required a sharpshooter. Of his numerous escapades with a pistol, he displayed abysmal aim, probably as a result of the constant flow of whiskey he consumed to control his cough. He is said to have stabbed several men to death, but this seems unlikely given his frail health and wasted physique; he supposedly carried only about 120 pounds on his 5’10” frame when he died. 

More than a decade of gambling, smoking, drinking and fighting with some of the most dangerous men in America didn’t kill Doc Holliday, but it didn’t slow the progression of his disease, either. As he deteriorated he once again sought out “better” climate. In Victorian times (and for a long time after) consumptives were encouraged to seek high altitudes. This led Doc to the state of Colorado, the place that eventually killed him.



High altitude sickness is caused when the “thinner” air, where there is less oxygen in the atmosphere, causes the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream to decrease, causing headaches, nausea and a host of other symptoms. For someone like Holliday, who suffered from a severe and advanced lung disease that already interfered with his ability to breathe, Colorado’s high altitude was torturous. With his health worsening daily he decided to seek treatment in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, a town famous for the “healing” waters of its natural hot-springs and vaporous caves.

Visiting the hot-springs was the worst possible course of action for the tubercular Holliday. Sulfur emissions from the mineral springs and geothermal steam baths at Glenwood Springs stripped the few shreds of healthy tissue from his already ravaged lungs. After a bitter lifetime of gambling with death at the point of a blade or the barrel of a pistol, his diseased body got the better of him. After 2 racking, bedridden months in the winter of 1887 Doc Holliday’s lungs gave out and he died. Tuberculosis had been the loaded gun at his temple for almost half his life, but Colorado had finally pulled the trigger.




Saturday, March 31, 2018

A Troubled Time

Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. — Leaders marching from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, August 28, 1963.
From 1955 to 1965 there was a war right in the middle of America.  No, it wasn’t a war like World War II or the Revolutionary War.  It was a war for the heart and soul of this country to determine once and for all if America was really going to be a land of equal opportunity for all.   It is a war that eventually took on the name of “The Civil Rights Movement.”

We must make no mistake, this was not just a shouting match.  Some of the events that we even remember today became quite brutal and deadly.  Those who fought in this war on both sides were deadly serious about the causes they represented and willing to fight and even die to see their cause succeed.  The war waged for years and steady progress was made but not without tremendous sacrifice by the leaders of the movement who were committed to a giving a new meaning to the phrase “set my people free.”

In all of black history, there may be no more significant a time since the Civil War when the rights of African Americans were so deeply fought and won.  The tensions in the country had been building.  When the Supreme Court mandated desegregation in the schools in the historic case Brown versus the Board of Education, the stage was set.  But it was on December 1, 1955, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama to a white man that the movement finally took shape and became a titanic struggle for the rights of African Americans in America.  That first battle brought to the front line one of the most important figures to fight for Civil Rights of that era, the Reverend Martin Luther King.

This tremendous struggle for freedom was never easy and was often marked with violence.  Over the next ten years, some of the most important milestones in black history took place including…

* 1957 – President Eisenhower had to send federal troops to Arkansas to secure admission to Central High School by nine black students.

* 1960 – The sit-in at Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro North Carolina set the stage for a nonviolent protest that was used with great success for the rest of the struggle.  Nonviolent protest and civil disobedience became a staple of the civil rights movement because of the influence of Martin Luther King.

* 1963 – The historic March on Washington in which over 200,000 people gathered to hear Dr. Kings famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

* 1964 – President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill that was the most significant event of his presidency and one he believed deeply in, the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

* 1965 – The assignation of Malcolm X and the Watts race rights.

* 1965 – President Johnson takes another bold step to accelerate the civil rights movement implementing Affirmative Action when he issues Executive Order 11246.

This short list is just a few of the highlights of this troubled time in which the rights of all citizens of American, black and white and of all colors were being redefined both on the streets, in the courts and in the different branches of government.  In the years to come there would be great steps forward.  One by one, every area of American life would see breakthroughs by African Americans in the areas of sports, entertainment, education, and politics.  There were many proud moments and there were moments of tremendous shame and heinous acts committed by both white and black people.  But through all that struggle, the society continued to grow and adapt to the will of the people as has always been the tradition in American culture.



The struggle is far from over.  Discrimination and hate speech continues to be a problem to this day.  And while it is easy to reflect on those days of struggle with regret, we can also look at them with pride.  We can be proud of the great leaders who demonstrated tremendous courage and wisdom to lead this nation to a better way of life.  And we can be proud of America because it is here where such a struggle can result in equality and freedom for all citizens, not just a few.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Imperfect Presidents

George Washington Caricature - Photo: Flickr
More important than proving perfection on your parties side, is a willingness to seek out the mistakes and correct them; to improve; to monitor your integrity. In the face of the opposition bashing away and looking for any sign of weakness, it is tempting to deny any fault at all, but it is still weak to ignore potential improvement. For a leader to inspire confidence, he must maintain a balance between claimed efficacy and a willingness to examine and adapt when changes will make a real impact; Not because the opposition is demanding apologies for not adhering to their views, when their only cause is your destruction, and only when reason makes a strong case. 

There are those so hungry for a disaster to blame on a president, nothing will prevent their finding fault with the opposition while their party's errors are given a pass.

I've been reading 1776 by David McCullough. George Washington was a confident optimistic leader in public while in his personal conversations and correspondence he admitted great concern for the Patriot Army's success. He made several bad decisions in the defense of New York City; splitting his army against a superior force; picking the wrong leader for a post and then switching midstream. The changes which confused soldiers prior to battle. Washington also overlooked a lesser used Long Island road which allowed the British to flank and surrounds his troops. 

Fortunately for Washington, he didn't have a post-battle press conference with reporters loyal to the enemy demanding he admits he was a failure. No, he had done his honest best and he and his troops learned and grew better eventually defeating Britain, which was considered the period's military superpower. Though he made mistakes, he was still the best man available for the job. Though he did modestly tell congress he felt inadequate to the job, he put all into its success. The enemy made many errors as well, but if Washington had been dismissed for his lack of perfection, our history would be much different. Congress knew of his error's but saw past them to his leadership and intelligence, rather than using every opportunity to improve their political positions.

Politicians today tend to look for anything that can tarnish the opponent, with no regard first for the facts, and no regard for damage to the country. The media plays along amplifying the agenda, to the detriment of the business at hand. More and more of us see through the shrill deceits of the knee-jerk politicians. We see who is working for our safety and who is busy spouting whatever sounds good to their political circles. If they only knew how nutty, how empty their words are, how devoid of purpose and integrity they appear to the discerning public.



Saturday, March 17, 2018

THOMAS JEFFERSON

English: Cropped version of Thomas Jefferson, ...
Thomas Jefferson, painted by Charles Willson Peale.
(Photo credit: 
Wikipedia)
Thomas Jefferson is one of those almost mythic figures from early American history that stand tall as one of the great heroes of the revolution and the early definition of what this country was going to become.  Sometimes it’s easy to look at a figure that stands so tall in history and thinks, perhaps some of that is a myth.

 But when you look at the history of the times, he was every bit as great as our adoration of him suggests he was.

Thomas Jefferson’s service to the new American union lasted over fifty years.

 He not only contributed to the core philosophical underpinnings upon which our democracy I based, he served in a variety of offices and made some phenomenal contributions to the developing country including…

* 1775 - Served in the Continental Congress 
* 1776 – Wrote the Declaration of Independence
* 1779-1781 - Governor of Virginia
* 1783 – Elected to Congress
* 1784-1789 – Commissioner and minister to France
* 1790-1793 – America’s first Secretary of State under George Washington
* 1797-1801 – Served as Vice President of the United States
* 1801-1809 – Third President of the United States
* 1803 – Approved of and helped launch the Lewis and Clark Expedition
* 1803 – Purchased the Louisiana Territory for the United States
* 1815 – Launched the Library of Congress
* 1825 – founded the University of Virginia

This phenomenal record of achievement is virtually unmatched in any public service record of comparable public servants.  But Jefferson’s contribution was more than just offices served, he was one or two or three key philosophical thinkers of his time that laid the ideological foundations of America. 

It is impossible to overemphasize the accomplishment he writing the Declaration of Independence.

 This document has taken on such a central position in American history that it is viewed with the reverence usually reserved for religious documents.  It so eloquently communicates the beliefs and the values of the American system of government that Jefferson can be seen as a true minister and prophet of those ideals.

Thomas Jefferson also believed strongly in Manifest Destiny and the westward expansion of the country as far as the Pacific Ocean.  He provided the inspiration, the funding and the political muscle to launch the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition that was responsible for discovering vast new lands and treasures in the heartland of America and providing inspiration to a country to “go west young man” and to achieve that dream of becoming a nation that stretched “for sea to shining sea”.

Jefferson had a thirst for knowledge that was virtually unquenchable.  He passed that passion for learning on in the building of the University of Virginia.  But his contribution to education that has made such a huge mark on American society was the building of the American library system by which citizens of any community can have access to large volumes of information at no cost.  It was an amazing experiment in public education.  But today few of us can imagine a world where we cannot at any time just “go check it out at the library”.  Libraries have become that central to the American way of life.

It seems that Thomas Jefferson made an impact on every aspect of society from the educational systems of the growing country to government and even making his viewpoints on religious freedom an important part of how America approached this crucial topic.  The entire concept of “separation of church and state” was one that Jefferson championed.  



It should be noted that in his writings it was clear that the separation of church and state works because it is there to restrict government from illegally restricting the religious rights of citizens.

 Sometimes we misinterpret Jefferson’s concepts that this governmental restriction is there to limit religious freedom when in fact, it is there to encourage all the religious freedom that the citizens of America need to honor and worship with complete openness and to never fear that the government will hinder who, what, when, where or how they go about expressing their religious ideas.

It’s important to look back at the genius of this man, Thomas Jefferson and be grateful that he was the man of the hour for such an important time in the development of the great nation of the United States of America.



Saturday, February 10, 2018

America's Second Civil War


Reprinted with permission from:

"The Second Civil War in the USA and its Aftermath" by Sam Vaknin (second, revised impression, 2029)

Summary of Chapter 83

"The polities of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries swung between extremes of nationalism and polyethnic multiculturalism. Following the Great War (1914-8), the disintegration of most of the continental empires - notably the Habsburg and Ottoman - led to a resurgence of a particularly virulent strain of the former, dressed as Fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism. 

The aftermath of the Second World War brought on a predictable backlash in the West against all manner of nationalism and racism. The USSR, Yugoslavia, the Czech Republic, the EU (European Union, the European Community), the Commonwealth led by the United Kingdom, and the prominent USA epitomized the eventual triumph of multiculturalism, multi-ethnic states, and, in the Western democracies, pluralism.

Africa and Asia, just emerging from a phase of brutal colonialism, were out of synch with these developments in Europe and North America and began to espouse their own brands of jingoistic patriotism. Attempts to impose liberal-democratic, multi-cultural, tolerant, pluralistic, and multi-ethnic principles on these emergent entities were largely perceived and vehemently rejected by them as disguised neo-colonialism.

The disintegration, during the second half of the twentieth century, of the organizing principles of international affairs - most crucially Empire in the 1960s and Communism in the 1980s - led to the re-eruption of exclusionary, intolerant, and militant nationalism. The Balkan secession wars of the 1990s served as a stark reminder that historical forces and ideologies never vanish - they merely lie dormant.

Polyethnic multiculturalism came under attack elsewhere and everywhere - from Canada to Belgium. Straining to contain this worrisome throwback to its tainted history, Europeans implemented various models. In the United Kingdom, regions, such as Scotland and Northern Ireland were granted greater autonomy. The EU's "ever closer union", reified by its unfortunate draft constitution, was intermittently rejected and resented by increasingly xenophobic and alienated constituencies. 

This time around, between 1980 and 2020, nationalism copulated with militant religiosity to produce particularly nasty offspring in Muslim terrorism, Christian fundamentalist (American) thuggish unilateralism, Hindu supremacy, and Jewish messianism. Scholars, such as Huntington, spoke of a "clash of civilizations".

Ironically, the much-heralded conflict took place not between the USA and its enemies without - but within the United States, in a second and devastating Civil War.

Americans long mistook the institutional stability of their political system, guaranteed by the Constitution, for a national consensus. They actually believed that the former guarantees the latter - that institutional firmness and durability ARE the national consensuses. The reverse, as we know, is true: it takes a national consensus to yield stable institutions. No social structure - no matter how venerable and veteran - can resist the winds of change in public sentiment.

In hindsight, the watershed obtained during the Bush-Cheney presidency (2001-2009). The social and political concord frayed and then disintegrated with each successive blow: the war in Iraq (2003-7), the botched evacuation and rescue efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (2005), the failed assassination attempt on the President's life (2006), the further restrictions placed on civil and human rights in Patriot Acts III and IV (2008), and, finally, the nuclear terrorist attack on Houston in the closing days of this divisive reign.

From there, it went only downhill.

As opposed to the first Civil War (1860-5), the Second Civil War (2021-26) was fought within communities and across state boundaries. It was not territorial and classic - but total and guerilla-like. It cut across the country's geography and pitted one ideological camp against another.

It may be too soon to objectively analyze and evaluate this gargantuan conflict. It was preceded by a decade of violent demonstrations, home-grown urban terrorism, and numerous skirmishes involving the National Guard and even, in violation of the Constitution, the armed forces.

Some historians cast the whole period as a battle of the religious vs. the secular. It clearly was not. By 2021, most Americans professed to be deeply religious, in one manner or fashion. No one seriously disputed the importance of the Church - but many insisted on its separation from the state. 

Hence the protracted (and heated) confrontation between pro-life and pro-choice advocates when Wade vs. Roe was overturned by a politicized and weakened Supreme Court in 2007. Hence the drawn out (and violent) debates about the teaching of evolution theory in schools or the use of embryonic stem cells in medical research.

Nor was the Civil War fought between isolationists and interventionists. An ever more brazen brand of post-September 11 global terrorism and a growing dependence on international trade inexorably drove most Americans to accept their new role as an Empire. They actually learned to enjoy it, both emotionally and economically.

Thus, even erstwhile Jacksonian isolationists reluctantly acquiesced in their country's foreign exploits. But they insisted on blatant unilateralism and the projection of American might merely and only to protect American interests. They abhorred the missionary ideology of the neo-conservatives. Spreading values, such as democracy, should better be left to NGOs and charities - they thundered.

The Civil War was not about the preservation of East Coast liberalism, as some self-serving scholars would have it. America was never less racist and homophobic than in the years immediately preceding the conflagration. The debate, again, revolved around institutions. Should changing mores be enshrined in legislation and case law? Should the national ethos itself be rewritten? Should the very definition and quiddity of being an American (white, male, straight) be revisited?



Neo-Marxist chroniclers attribute the causes of the Second Civil War to the growing disparities of wealth between the haves and the have not. Presidents Bush and Cheney surely reversed L.B. Johnson's Great Society. They and their successors erased the numerous entitlements and aid programs that many of the economically disenfranchised came to depend upon and to regard as a birthright and as a cornerstone of the social contract. 

Turning the clock back on affirmative action and food stamps, for instance, indeed provoked widespread violence. But such outbursts can hardly be construed to have been the precursors of the giant flame that consumed the USA a few years hence.

Finally, the Civil War was not about free trade (beneficial to the service and manufacturing based economies of some states) versus protectionism (helpful to the agricultural belts and bowls of the hinterland and to the recovering Gulf Coast). America's economy was far too dependent on the outside world to reverse course. Its national debt was being financed by Asians, its products were being sold all over, its commodities and foods were coming from Africa and Latin America. The USA was in hock to a globalized and merciless economy. Protectionism was campaign posturing - not a cogent and coherent trade policy.

So, what were the roots and causes of the Second Civil War?

None of the above in isolation - and all of the above in confluence. For decades, the citizenry's trust in a packed and rigged Supreme Court declined. Politicians came to be regarded as a detached and heartless plutocracy. Americans felt orphaned, cheated, and robbed. The national consensus - the implicit agreement that together is better than alone - has thus evaporated. The outcome was the shots and explosions that rocked the United States (and the world in tow) on January 20, 2021."




Monday, February 5, 2018

Myths of the American Civil War

Civil War Balle Scene - Photo: Wikimedia
The Civil War (1861-5) has spawned numerous myths and falsities.

The Republicans did not intend to abolish slavery - just to "contain" it, i.e., limit it to the 15 states where it had already existed. Most of the Democrats accepted this solution. 

This led to a schism in the Democratic party. The "fire-eaters" left it and established their own pro-secession political organization. Growing constituencies in the south - such as urban immigrants and mountain farmers - opposed slavery as a form of unfair competition. Less than one-quarter of southern families owned slaves in 1861. Slave-based, mainly cotton raising, enterprises, was so profitable that slave prices almost doubled in the 1850s. This rendered slaves - as well as land - out of the reach of everyone but the wealthiest citizens.

Cotton represented three-fifths of all United States exports in 1860. Southerners, dependent on industrial imports as they were, supported free trade. Northerners were vehement trade protectionists. The federal government derived most of its income from customs duties. Income tax and corporate profit tax were yet to be invented.

The states seceded one by one, following secession conventions and state-wide votes. The Confederacy (Confederate States of America) was born only later. Not all the constituents of the Confederacy seceded at once. Seven - the "core" - seceded between December 20, 1860, and February 1, 1861. They were: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. 

Another four - Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas - joined them only after the attack on Fort Sumter in April 1861. Two - Kentucky and Missouri - seceded but were controlled by the Union's army throughout the war. Maryland and Delaware were slave states but did not succeed. 

President James Buchanan who preceded Abraham Lincoln made clear that the federal government would not use force to prevent secession. Secession was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court only in 1869 (in Texas vs. White) - four years after the Civil War ended. New England almost seceded in 1812, during the Anglo-American conflict, in order to protect its trade with Britain.

The constitution of the Confederacy prohibited African slave trade (buying slaves from Africa), though it allowed interstate trade in slaves. The first Confederate capital was in Montgomery, Alabama - not in Richmond, Virginia. The term of office of the Confederate president - Jefferson Davis was the first elected - was six years, not four as was the case in the Union.

Fort Sumter was not the first attack of the Confederacy on the Union. It was preceded by attacks on 11 forts and military installations on Confederate territory. 

Lincoln won only 40 percent of the popular vote in 1860. Hence the South's fierce resistance to his abolitionist agenda. In 1864, the Republicans became so unpopular, they had to change their name to the Union Party. Lincoln's vice-president, Johnson, actually was a Democrat and hailed from Tennessee, a seceding state.

He was the only senator from a seceded state to remain in the Senate. 

Reconstruction started long before the war ended, in Union-occupied Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee. Slave tax was an important source of state revenue in the South (up to 60 percent in South Carolina). Emancipation led to near bankruptcy.

The Union states of Connecticut, Minnesota, and Wisconsin refused to pass constitutional amendments to confer suffrage on black males. The Union army consigned black labor gangs to work on the plantations of loyal Southerners and forcibly separated the black workers from their families.



Contrary to myth, nearly two-thirds of black families were headed by both parents. Slave marriages were legally meaningless in the antebellum South, though. But nearly 90 percent of slave households remained intact till death or forced separation. The average age of childbirth for women was 20.

Segregation was initiated by blacks. The freedmen lobbied hard and long for separate black churches and educational facilities. Nor was lynching confined to blacks. For instance, a white mob lynched, in September 1862, forty-four Union supporters in Gainesville, Texas. Similar events took place in Shelton Laurel, North Carolina. The Ku Klux Klan was the paramilitary arm of the Democratic party in the South, though never officially endorsed by it. It was used to "discipline" the workforce in the plantations - but also targeted Republicans.

The Democrats changed their name after the war to the Conservative Party. By 1877 they have regained power in all formerly Confederate states.