The most accessible analogy for the toxicity currently plaguing our nation is an abusive relationship. For the people who spend decades wondering “How did X society let X issue get that bad?” one need look no further than the dynamics of abusive relationships. “Why does so-and-so stay?”
In hindsight, it’s easy to understand. Nobody is outwardly abusive in the beginning. Hitler, Jim Jones, and the rest were not militaristic, overtly violent people during their ascension. Like a charming date, people fall (hard) for the person who meets their needs and makes them feel special. History criticizes those unable to see the subtle ropes that gradually ensnare every aspect of the victim’s life, those who ignore the severity of their situation until those ropes are used to hang them. We profess “Never Again,” and demand to remember exactly how it got this bad in order to ensure it never reoccurs.
And then we forget. Nostalgia filters out the unpleasant and we romanticize “good old days.” Excuses and justifications are made. We forget how different the forest looks when one walks among the trees.
In the early stages, the praise drowns out any voiced concerns. “Quit whining, you’re just sour grapes!” Enthusiasm and reverence, cultivated over months of promised bliss, meet the challenge of any apprehension. “He’ll drain the swamp—you’ll see!” “You just don’t know them the way I do!” The more outsiders express disdain, the more appealing our newfound champion becomes. “We’re going to be great again!” “You don’t understand; they love me!”
Continue reading “Whether exerted over a relationship or a nation, tyranny manifests in remarkably similar ways.”
I am deeply interested in the Civil War. I consume a lot of documentaries and historical books. I portray a Union soldier as a sometime-re-enactor. I have toured six of the national battlefields so far, and one of my ancestors was wounded at Gettysburg (on the third day, my guess during the artillery barrage before Pickett’s Charge). I am interested.
It’s fantastic to find other people to discuss this important and pivotal time in American—and world—history. Stories about heroic bravery, dumb luck and masterful strategy abound; personal details and anecdotes preserved in diaries and letters connect us to the nearly three million people who fought—and the more than 500,000 who died—in the largest bloodbath our nation has ever seen.
So I was surprised as the national conversation emanated from the horrific violence in Virginia—since the white supremacists were in town to preserve a statue of Robert E. Lee, this was a teaching moment about the actual history of most Confederate monuments with national potential. It seemed like people were becoming more interested in discussing the War, and its implications regarding Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement, and even Black Lives Matter.
Yet as it turns out, most people apparently don’t care about the actual War, or about how those monuments actually got there.
Continue reading “Another thinkpiece on Rebel Monuments”
Memorial Day is a unique moment to honor a very specific type of Americans: those who have died, either in the service of our nation or after a career of military duty. Abraham Lincoln would characterize them, three years before the concept of Memorial Day came about, on a battlefield in southern Pennsylvania where sixty thousand Americans had been killed, as “these honored dead,” emphasizing that we must double our commitment to the “cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.”
The Day was first formally recognized in 1866, when Waterloo NY started a national trend of lowering flags to half staff, draping the village in black to represent mourning, and decorating the graves of soldiers lost during the War. This energy was propelled both by living veterans and loved ones of the dead.
Originally in the first week of May, the day was pushed back to later in the month as more communities began to acknowledge a day to memorialize their dead, likely to allow for more flowers to bloom before they were plucked by loved ones to place upon graves.
Continue reading “In case anyone thought it was about furniture sales and barbecues…”
Six months into the Civil War, things were not going well for the Union (the north). Their army lacked effective leadership, comprehensive training, and many of the engagements took place in Confederate territory, allowing the advantage of familiar terrain. Virtually everyone had presumed the conflict would last 90 days; the terror, destruction and carnage that followed was difficult to fathom.
While in D.C. in November 1861 with her husband, Julia Ward Howe overheard the tune “John Brown’s Body,” the self-chosen theme song of regiments in the area, and entertained the idea of re-writing the lyrics. Later that night, she awoke from a sound sleep with the words in her head that would become the anthem of the Union Army, and subsequently the Union. Even today “the Battle Hymn of the Republic” is a familiar tune, although contemporary understanding is only the first verse, and little on its meaning.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.
(Chorus) Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah! His truth is marching on.
Continue reading “Previously known as John Brown’s Body”
Full disclosure: this post is both the longest and the most spontaneous I’ve done so far, after an exhilarating stay in the nation’s capitol—both to observe the Inaugural landscape and to attend the Women’s March on Washington. Hopefully that explains the excitable, rambling syntax.
Continue reading “My Week in Washington”
My family is full of strong, successful women. They are teachers, mothers, counselors, translators, researchers, wives, social workers, and change makers. They are brilliant, passionate, stubborn and protective. Growing up amidst their example and stewardship contributed to who I am today.
My maternal grandmother and aunt took my sisters (one younger, one older) and I on a multitude of excursions as children. These trips exposed us to the many possibilities and viewpoints outside of the small town we lived in. When I was around ten years old, we visited Seneca Falls for the first time. Continue reading “Throughout her life, Stanton’s father would say, “I wish you were a boy.””
A lot has been written, discussed, displayed and filmed about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., perhaps the most iconic Civil Rights leader in our history. Revered during his life and immortalized by his tragic death in 1968, Dr. King’s legend has a lot to do with the profoundly insightful things he said.
Martin Luther King Jr. is one of three people who have earned a federal holiday. Christopher Columbus got a holiday for “discovering the continent” (for Europeans); George Washington had an integral role in shaping the country as we’ve known it; and Dr. King called upon the nation to follow through with its “all men are created equal” notion. It wasn’t officially observed in all fifty states until 2000, but the effort to establish a “Martin Luther King Day” began shortly after his death, and was signed into law by President Reagan in 1986.
The almost-six-year-old monument to Dr. King in D.C. features a white granite representation of the leader, cut to create a gap in a half-circle of high stone, where visitors can view some of his quotations. The sixty-foot profile stares with his arms folded out at the Tidal Basin, toward the columned dome dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, a slaveholder, founding father and former President. The side of the block featuring his statue reads “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”
Continue reading “In the words of a man named Martin”