History

Founding of America: The Story You Weren’t Taught

Tony Horwitz wrote in his revealing book, A Voyage Long and Strange, “Expensively educated at a private school and university — a history major, no less! — I’d matriculated to middle age with a third grader’s grasp of early America.” Horwitz would remedy this problem by beginning a cross-country adventure. He would uncover this missing history from first contact with the Vikings, to the forgotten era between Columbus’ landing in 1492, and the founding of Jamestown in 1607. Even those humanity-changing events have been reduced to mere sentences in our history lessons, as Horwitz discovered.

An artifact of our education system, history has long been neglected. Arguably, it’s the most important field once you realize how much our ancestors can teach us. There is little we experience or endure they didn’t experience first. In our hubris, we ignore the answers to the test they have handed us. By reducing our study to names and dates, they seem like myths. Many would be surprised how much we do know about the people who came before us. The best teachers and writers of history re-discover this past and allow us to time travel through the eyes of our ancestors. In Horwitz’s case, he found a “dramatic tale of conquistadors, castaways, French voyageurs, Moorish slaves, and many others who roamed and rampaged across half [of the continent of North America], long before the Mayflower landed.”

In Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower, he finds while there is “a surprising amount of truth in the tired, threadbare story of the First Thanksgiving,” it was only the beginning of the story. That event was followed by “fifty-five years of struggle and compromise — a dynamic, often harrowing process of give an take. As long as both sides recognized that they needed each other, there was peace.” War eventually came, but “there was nothing inevitable about King Phillip’s War” which “caught almost everyone by surprise.” It’s a story with a powerful and relevant message for our time: “When violence and fear grips a society, there is an almost overpowering temptation to demonize the enemy.”

How could the settlement of Jamestown, its tenuous survival through famine and conflict, pushed to the edge of extinction many times, produce a transformative country a century and a half later? Benjamin Woolley’s Savage Kingdom, peels back the mythos often centered on John Smith and Pocahontas, and finds a motley but determined group who were “deposited…in America…ill prepared, badly equipped and poorly financed.” Where Plymouth was founded for religious freedom, Jamestown was a wholly economic enterprise. Yet even that doesn’t tell the whole story. This attempt to colonize America was “…about flawed, dispossessed, desperate people trying to reinvent themselves. It is about being caught in a dirty struggle to survive, haunted by failure, hungering for escape, dreaming of riches an hoping for redemption.”

These, then, are timeless stories of humanity’s struggles. Perhaps we should pause and listen to what our ancestors have to say.

Contact and connect with Darrick here. Get your copy of Among the Shadows and choose a side. Will it be on the side of Light? Or Darkness? Book 2, Awakening, coming soon.

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Will we Falter Like Our Ancestors, or Heed Their Message?

The historical record shows that after the establishment of democracy a booming Athens was suffused with energy and creativity…Love of liberty was a value of cardinal importance, which the democracy fed and watered. It was the foundation for rational inquiry and free artistic expression…Small wonder that this fertile soil produced a flowering of extraordinary personalities, and great art and thought…[it was] a briefly opened window of opportunity…However, for the time that the fates allowed, Athens made the most of her chances. – Anthony Everitt, The Rise of Athens

That era of Greek civilization that produced so much — democratic government, philosophical thoughts of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, art and drama, science and spectacular architecture, and much more — was a relativity short period of roughly two centuries. Centered in the city-state of Athens, it isn’t easy to determine how so much in one place, in such a short period, came together and became a pillar of time to civilization. To this day, that one city, that one era, has influenced our world.

In reading Anthony Everitt’s history of Athens, I couldn’t help seeing the parallels to the history of the United States. In nearly the same span of time, the United States has affected the world in much the same way. In all the fields of culture and science, thought and politics, making democracy more robust in the form of a democratic republic, both in its successes and failures, it has been most impactful on the world. Unfortunately, there are signs of the same paths that led to the premature ending of Athens’s golden era.

Endless wars. Neglecting the precepts of democracy and the responsibility of ensuring it endures. Government abuses of power, and they only care — or appear to — for people just enough to maintain that power. The fostering and fanning of division among people. All of which makes a country ripe for collapse either by nature or by man.

We are often arrogant in the viewing our ancestors. We think they could not possibly have anything to teach us. Quite to the contrary, they have been down this road, many, many times. They have given us all the answers to the test. If we fail, it is because we have chosen to fail.

This is why history is so important to study, and why the nefarious rather you did not.

Athens wasn’t the first to crumble, nor the last. We took much of what they created and made it better.

What a shame if, sometime in the future, someone looked around and said words much like this archbishop of Athens did in the late twelfth century:

You cannot look upon Athens without weeping. It is not just that she has lost her ancient glory: that was taken long ago…Everywhere you see walls stripped and demolished, houses razed to the ground, their sites ploughed under.

[It is] a God-forsaken hole.

Contact and connect with Darrick here. Get your copy of Among the Shadows and choose a side. Will it be on the side of Light? Or Darkness? Book 2, Awakening, coming soon.

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History Speaks, We Don’t Listen

“The evangelists of freedom did all they could to sound the alarm amidst a fog of competing narratives, confusion, propaganda, and misinformation.” – Robert Lyman


I read Robert Lyman’s Under a Darkening Sky the other day about Americans living in Europe before WWII, who tried to warn all what was coming. Darkening Sky presents two lessons from history:

One, don’t ignore the lone voices in the wilderness just because they are not anointed by the mainstream. Second, when a country’s population and leadership are so completely divided, it doesn’t take much of a disaster (manmade or natural) to initiate their collapse (as France learned).

It’s like the past gave us all the answers to the test, and yet we keep failing.

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A Republic at Risk

When the 1776 Commission was created to produce the The 1776 Report, the normal mindless, partisan politics ensued. The report couldn’t possibly be of importance and was ignored and deleted. So I, unlike many others, decided to actually read it. Here, quoted from the report, is what it was fundamentally about:

The core assertion of the Declaration [of Independence], and the basis of the founders’ political thought, is that “all men are created equal.”

[This] does not mean that all human beings are equal in wisdom, courage, or any of the other virtues and talents that God and nature distribute unevenly among the human race. It means rather that human beings are equal in the sense that they are not by nature divided into castes, with natural rulers and ruled.

Natural equality requires not only the consent of the governed but also the recognition of fundamental human rights…as well as the fundamental duty or obligation of all to respect the rights of others. These rights are found in nature and are not created by man or government; rather, men create governments to secure natural rights. Indeed, the very purpose of government is to secure these rights, which exist independently of government, whether government recognizes them or not.

…the Ninth Amendment [establishes] that the Bill of Rights was a selective and not an exclusive list; that is, the mere fact that a right is not mentioned in the Bill of Rights is neither proof nor evidence that it does not exist.

In other words, the Declaration of Independence is a statement of the ancient belief that human rights are innate and exist whether or not any particular government thinks otherwise. These were the founding principles of the United States, all of which used to be taught in schools. That was a primary purpose of schools after all. The report writes:

Education in civics, history, and literature holds the central place in the well-being of both students and communities. For republican government, citizens with such an education are essential. The knowledge of human nature and unalienable rights — understanding what it means to be human — brings deeper perspective to public affairs, for the simple reason that educated citizens will take encouragement or warning from our past in order to navigate the present.

When the lessons of the past are ignored, the truth of natural rights ignored, and politicians try to undo or work around checks and balances of power, this is cause for great concern. When these cancers began to eat away at a republic, often hidden behind movements and catchphrases that hide the decay, one day people wake up wondering how their government moved into tyranny. History, however, tells us how easy governments can fail:

Republicanism is an ancient form of government, but one uncommon throughout history, in part because of its fragility, which has tended to make republics short-lived. Contemporary Americans tend to forget how historically rare republicanism has been, in part because of the success of republicanism in our time…

We only need to look to that famous republic, the Roman one, and its slide into tyranny, and the warnings it has left us. Edward Watts in Mortal Republic writes:

A republic is not an organism. It has no natural life span. It lives or dies solely on the basis of choices made by those in charge of its custody…The [Roman] Republic could have been saved. These men, and many others less famous as they, chose not to save it…When citizens take the health and durability of their republic for granted, that republic is at risk.

The 1776 Report wasn’t a partisan document; it was a warning. As Daniel Webster wrote, if the American experiment fails, “there will be anarchy throughout the world.”

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Battles Fought, Battles Avoided

People who fail to heed the past, doom the future. Likewise, those who ignore the present, as if they have no responsibility for their actions to those who come after, may change the course of history.

An event in 9 A.D., in a dark German forest, probably didn’t seem like much on the global scale. When three Roman legions were destroyed by German tribes in Teutoburg Forest, it was a tragedy for sure. Nearly 20,000 were dead, an amount hard to imagine killed in only a few hours time. The loss struck Caesar Augustus hard, and no full-scale attempt to conquer and Romanize Germania would ever occur again. Rome would stay close to the militarized border along the Rhine and Danube Rivers for the remainder of its existence. As Rome endured for a few more hundred years after the Battle of Teutoburg Forest, the disaster didn’t seem like an event of significance, one that had altered history.

But it had.

Had the German region become part of Rome like western Europe, would the “barbarian” invasions of Rome centuries later never occur? Would the empire have endured longer? Would later wars between France and Germany also fail to materialize? What of the World Wars?

Of course we are speculating, we cannot know for sure how an alternate timeline would have played out. Some dismiss the battle had any serious impact on the river of time, not because of historical evidence, but out of overwrought fears the battle will be used for nationalist causes. Others point to Britannia, which expelled Roman culture after Rome left, as if that proves something contrary. Britain and Europe would be at odds for centuries, much like the situation north of the Alps. Nor are we arguing that Roman expansion was a moral enterprise. However, we know what did happen, and what did not happen. We know a severe cultural divide was created, and even centuries later during multiple eras, when both sides shared the same religion, it didn’t erase the past. Rome fell for many reasons. Endless war was one of them. Many of which were with their neighbors to the north.

What should this teach us? First, we must pay attention to our past. We must cast off this hubris that believes nothing important happened prior to today. Our temporal amnesia is a dangerous disease.

Second, our decisions and actions as nations make lasting ripples far into the future. Where this chain of history goes forward is hard to see from our link, but looking back, the weight of memory is heavy and clear. We can see the connections, the causes and effects.

If we ignore the messages our ancestors have given us, we will fall into our own battles in dark forests. Regardless, if at the time, we think we are on the winning side, our descendants could lose everything.

Each generation has a responsibility to the next to preserve and pass on the canon of human history. It is how the continuity of civilization endures through both the bad and the good.

We have traded our responsibility for tribalisms, allow the elite to choose and run our governments, and abandoned intellect as we run headlong into chaos that we are told is imaginary.

If our ancestors could speak, they would ask, “Why did you not listen to us?”

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Do the Impossible

Thus something impossible will probably be accomplished through something else which has always been equally impossible, but which remains no longer. – Robert H. Goddard

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When Education Fails

Each generation of American children has learned less real history than the generation before it. Each generation of American children has instead been subject to greater levels of indoctrination in place of genuine education. – Joy Pullman

And because of this “prejudiced ignorance” created from the failure to teach history, several monuments defaced by rioters in the United States are actually monuments of abolitionists and those who represent everyone.

History matters, yet it gets a backseat in education, if it gets a seat at all.

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Tiananmen: 30 Years Later

…tanks eventually burst through burning debris and headed down the avenue towards Tiananmen. Afterward, I went into the street to comfort some of the locals. Their faces were filled with horror and voices with anguished cries. Various sources suggest that death casualties among the locals ranged several hundred to several thousand – but no one knows for sure because of the communist government’s tight control of information. In a span of just a few short hours, I witnessed the spark of freedom, and saw it extinguished. – Fred Gedrich

If you are too young to remember the Tiananmen Square Massacre, then please read this. The situation in China hasn’t improved in the succeeding decades. Remember that when you hear people defending the Chinese government.

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Weight of Memory: Vietnam

Ken Burns’ series, The Vietnam War is possibly one of the best, and most important, documentaries I have seen.

Knowing our history — and I repeat myself — is critical in one’s understanding of the world they live in. The Weight of Memory left to us by our collective past teaches, guides, and warns us.

Nearly fifty years have passed since the end of the Vietnam War. Sadly, those who have been born since really don’t know as much about that era as they think, and this is a danger.

Continue reading

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Will Rome Have to Fall Again?

The Medieval era has always been a fascinating time to study. This is where the modern era was born. Our industry and commerce, our government and arts, our science and technology, all took root in those days. The myth of it being a “dark age” didn’t come until later, from revisionists trying to make their era look better.

With the corruption and malaise of Rome — that only served to maintain the elite — swept away, progress had begun again. Then, and now, calamity befalls the people when they don’t keep its rulers in check, when they cease paying attention to what conspiring their leaders are engaged in. Too busy accepting handouts like the Roman citizens, only to be surprised at the barbarians at their gates. Turns out the barbarians weren’t so barbaric. They built a resilient new civilization better than the last. The fall of Rome was a long time coming, just as our leaders didn’t begin their downward spiral yesterday. Continue reading

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