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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

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History

So, history keeps repeating itself……

…….and the theory behind the repetition of events and actions is this – until you learn the lesson, you will continually find yourself inside it.  This is speaking directly to one’s personal life, of course – relationships that don’t work out, jobs that don’t suit, etc.  But until you identify and change one small thing, you will continue to find yourself in those very situations that you rail against and want to break free of.

And it’s not easy – it requires conscious decision making and discipline to carry it through.  This applies to your own life as well as to the collective world at large.  Change is hard, to begin with, but we are constantly changing from the time we are born.  Surely, conscious change can not only be incorporated into one’s life, but embraced as a positive.

I am thinking of bigger issues than relationships, of course, but they are so huge, I’m not sure I could fit it into one blog post.  It could take up several.  And there so many issues to tackle, that I’m even less sure of where to begin.  And change is frightening to a lot of people – so much so, that they’d rather stagnate than make any real positive efforts to experience something that is outside their comfort zone.

And there it is – comfort zones and change don’t mix.  In order to get out of the comfort zone, you have to open up and change – a perspective, a piece of knowledge, a diet.  Regardless of how concrete the action to change is, the end result is a relative unknown.  The unknown can be acceptance or rejection, whether it’s an idea, a person or a philosophy.  It’s not so much the end result that incites fear – it’s the unknown reaction to that result.

From personal decisions to global ones, the unknown result from an act of change (no matter how positive or good that change can be) is fear.  Where do we belong?  Do we belong?  Am I not a part of this world?  What can I do to be relevant to others?  How can I be a better human being in this world?  What can I bring to the table?

It’s questions like that which define us.  It’s how we answer them that will either elevate or condemn us.

Something to think about.

 

“Some people think the future means the end of history.  Well…We haven’t run out of history quite yet.  Your father called the future…the undiscovered country.  People can be very frightened of change.”
Captain James T. Kirk, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

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The Declaration of Independence: 4 July 1776

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women [1]) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts:
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut:
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware:
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland:
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia:
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Photo Credit: Foundation for Economic Education.

[1] My addition/clarification.

So, last night, I went to see and hear Gloria Steinem speak……

……..and it was thrilling. An icon for equal rights and the feminist movement for more than forty years, she has lost none of her passion. Her wit and gracious humor and sharp insights into the last few months brought cheers, applause, tears and laughs.

It was an honor to meet her over the book signing shortly afterwards. Her warmth and down-to-earth presence averted any awkwardness I might have felt in engaging with her. I even got to make her laugh over a comment I made, referring to my Ancient Greek comedy.

It was an evening that took root a few weeks ago, when I saw the event listed and it sparked my interest. It was enlightening, encouraging and hopeful. I ran into people that I knew and met others, of whom I hope to get to know better.

In the last few months, I’ve felt like history had been doubling back on itself, repeating the same patterns and events with new names and different faces. From the Dakota Access Pipeline to the attempt to undo civil rights for women and people of color, it is clear to me that we, as Americans, do not remember our history. As an amateur historian, it’s frustrating and surreal and makes me more determined than ever to keep learning history.

We can’t change the past. Going backwards gets us nowhere. As frightening and uncertain as the future is, we have to keep moving forward. If we remember the lessons of the past, we can affect and alter the future.

The goal is for the benefit of everyone, not a select few.

The theater marquee where I attended the lecture.
The theater marquee where I attended the lecture.

So, last fall, I took a history class…….

……about how California came to be a part of the United States. I signed up for it in part to improve my general GPA in order to pursue a Master’s degree. I also love history and I want to incorporate what I learn to improve and to enrich the settings of my fiction writing.

Using The Elusive Eden by Bullough and Orsi, the course traced the ‘discovery’ of the region until the latter decade of the 20th century. We covered a lot of material, ranging from the encounters and conflicts between the First Americans and the Spanish and European explorers of the 16th/17th centuries to the creation of the Spanish missions. We read about the Gold Rush and the Civil War, about the Prohibition era to the civil rights movements of the 1960s and 70s. There was so much history (and at the same time, not enough), that I’m breaking this up into more than one post.

You know that saying, and I may be paraphrasing a little, “those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it”? Every week, I was reading my text book about events that happened three hundred, fifty, twenty years ago. On the news, it was playing out all over again. The players were the same, the conflict was the same, but the year was different.

What I learned about California as a republic prior to its acceptance into the United States reflects the growth and change of America as a whole. Like the state itself, the history is vast and sweeping, detailed and epic. Because of that, I will be writing about California’s history over multiple posts.

Through the prism of California, I saw how America evolved, set itself back and emerged anew, only to start the cycle all over again.

It was a surreal five months, to say the least. And it hasn’t ended.

My text book.
My text book.

So, I had written something for my history class……

……and it turned out that I had misunderstood the purpose of the theme I had chosen. It’s a good piece, however, so I’m sharing it here:

In the fictional future as described by Star Trek, there’s a rule about first contact that our intrepid heroes have to follow and abide by, with no exception. Called the Prime Directive, it is defined this way: no interference by Starfleet or any member of the Federation upon cultures that are thriving, but not yet technologically advanced or aware of life beyond their world.

Members of the Federation/Starfleet are forbidden to interfere and impose their beliefs, way of life or views on said cultures. Regardless of how technologically advanced the culture might be, First Contact with the Federation does not occur until the alien culture has proven that they are capable of interstellar travel.

Granted, this is from a TV show about an ideal future, but many of the fictional characters that inhabit the show are human. They were either born on Earth or on a space station or starship, but they are connected to our very real history. This kept coming to mind while reading the assigned chapters and handouts regarding the first contacts between the Native Californians, the Europeans and the Spaniards.

Looking at that part of our past from the 21st century, we (hopefully) can see where things went wrong for everyone in those disastrous first contacts. The Europeans and Spaniards viewed the Native Californians as little more than backwards children at best that needed to be corrected or primitive apes at worst to be dominated and controlled. This is demonstrated quite clearly by the capture and forced conversion of the Natives by the missions.

Neither side recognized that the Natives had an established way of life and culture that benefited their peoples and the land. The Natives lived in harmony with their environment to the best of their ability, taking care to neither over-populate nor over-harvest the land. Being human beings, they also had conflict among themselves and other tribes. Depending on the standards one used to judge them by, they were either very sophisticated or very primitive people.

The impact of first contact between the Natives and the explorers seemed to depend on who was involved and whether the process was peaceful and mutually beneficial. Such encounters were passed along to other tribes and down to the younger generations, creating a long memory. This would affect future contacts, because not all explorers had anyone’s best interests at heart other than their own. If greeted openly, there was an opportunity to abuse that trust, thus souring the tribe of being receptive to those who wouldn’t.

Treaties and promises made between the Europeans/Spaniards were more often than not broken when the newcomers saw the wealth offered by the land. Treaties were broken when gold was discovered in the Black Hills and, as I write this, the Standing Rock Sioux are fighting to protect their only source of clean water against an oil company.

There is a reprieve, enforced by the Department of Justice, the Department of the Interior and the Department of the Army, calling on the Dakota Access Pipeline to “voluntarily pause all construction”. This came nearly a week after the oil company’s bulldozers destroyed sacred sites. But it is not a full-stop to that project.

Star Trek, according to Gene Roddenberry in 1991, was “an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but to take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms.” Because, he added, “If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.

Have we learned those lessons? I don’t know. According to the fictional future of Star Trek, we as a collective whole – meaning, the entire world, all countries, no exceptions – do learn those lessons and achieve that ideal at some point.

Will we learn from the past? I think so. Over two hundred tribes and other groups are currently in North Dakota, protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. That’s amazing and hopeful.

Can we change? Again, I don’t know. My feeling is that it’s a personal choice to be open to the lesson, learn from it and change oneself. All one can do is share one’s own experiences.

Anything beyond that is control.

Recommended:

The Elusive Eden
Star Trek: The Original Series
Trail of Tears
Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline petition

 

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