In just a few days we celebrate a holiday somewhat more popular in the US than in Mexico. That’s just as well because it’s a classic North American kind of holiday in many ways. We are a family, which is why our relationship is so intense and personal at times.
It started as invasion by France to collect a debt, but the larger and better equipped French invasion force was defeated by a ragged group of Mexicans, some armed with little more than machetes and pitchforks. The Battle of Puebla on 5 May 1862 was 150 years ago this Saturday. It was not decisive, needing a few years before the colorful armies and politicians could sort it all out. But the victory at Puebla is a story deep at the heart of Mexican character – a determination and toughness that the great continent of North America shares as a very odd, sometimes dysfunctional family.
April 23 was the 35th birthday of the Conch Republic. It was an important day because once it turns middle aged it can start lying about its age. Lying is an important part of the story because a well told lie is the heart of any legend.
You may not have heard of the Conch Republic, the Independent Florida Keys. To some people, that’s just as well. But the story needs to be told because it is a tale of lust, greed, power, and … well, actually, it’s just a lot of fun. You can get a lot further with a good gag than you can by being a jerk. And so it begins.
The rapid pace of change has created a world filled with excitement and energy. At the same time, it’s created a world filled with anxiety and fear. At the intersection of both of these is hatred, distrust, disrespect, and every other force you can think of which can divide people. Rather than bring us together, closeness has us running to define boxes to hide in, regardless of how small.
The great force which should unite but instead often confuses and separates is the driving force of our time: technology. That one simple word is the savior and excuse all at the same time. But what is it, really?
It has been a century since the United States broke its traditional continental isolationism to “Make the world safe for democracy.” On April 6, 1917, the US entered World War I and started a cascade which lead us to where we are today.
Without this event, the US Dollar would never have become the global currency, and indeed globalism would not be as closely associated with Americanism as it is everywhere but here. The American Century began on this date and ends roughly where we are today, for better or worse.
The world, as we know it, was born.
As we prepare to inaugurate our nation’s second genuine psychopathic president, Andrew Jackson being the first, it’s better to look back on happy times. Back in 2009 Barataria was celebrating by … well, strangely looking forward to something like today. Judge for yourself.
During the many lulls in inaugural coverage, CNN knew what would dazzle ‘em. They had their satellite image of everyone standing around in the cold waiting for The Moment – the time when Obama would formally be worn in. Huddled around giant screens you could see the black specs, which the CNN crew dutifully told us “look just like ants!” Yes, from a distance, we are small, but doesn’t that miss the point just a little? It seems to me that when the great Wheel of History appears to be turning, we have one day where we should not be focusing on where we are on the rim, but on the progress of the great Wheel itself.
That’s why I started rummaging though all the ancient texts in my library.
Thanksgiving is a truly great American holiday. It is a time when people from all over the world blend their traditions into one religious holiday celebrated by Christians, Jews, Moslems, and every other faith alike. To give thanks is universal, and what better way to celebrate deliverance to a land that to many is indeed the Promised Land.
But why is it in November? The very first day of Thanksgiving was held right after the harvest, on a day very similar to the Canadian Thanksgiving on October 12th. Why is it on a Thursday? The answer is that the nation itself was delivered from the horrors of war and recognized by the Treaty of Paris, owing a bit of time for the time it takes to cross the Atlantic and bring the joyous news. It was indeed a time to be thankful – but the story has the Hand of Providence all over it.
There’s no doubt that the United States is in a period of transition. But from what to what else? Through the last 16 years the economy has been tough on everyone – except the very wealthy. The most recent few years have been a time of terrible social upheaval. Pessimism is understandable.
Yet if we look back through history there is a lot of good reason to believe that everything does move in cycles. Business cycles which seem permanent eventually give way to better opportunity. Social upheaval does usually reach a consensus and progress is made.
Hope comes naturally by taking the Barataria view that cycles are real and that the economy is really nothing more than a social arrangement. Sure, it’s the dismal one with all the numbers and the brutal one that defines rich and poor. But at the heart it is only about turning our personal “values” into a socially convertible “value”. How it changes through generations and lifetimes defines us even as we define what this thing called an “economy” really is.
This essay is a continuation of the previous piece, Spring is Coming! as a cycle on my personal political philosophy and read of history.