Archive for history

Every War Has Brought Us Here

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The times and experiences of today may differ, however, when we take a close look, they often easily add up to the situations we find ourselves in today.

The Revolutionary War was a victory for the obvious underdog-US-the United states of America. There were celebrations all along the East Coast of the Colonies, now States of a new Country. No doubt, the world found its self in a bit of shock. Citizens shouted that we were free. We were of one soul, one mind-freedom. We read the declaration of Independence, the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, even with the knowledge that the fight was far from over, we felt victorious. But who among us, was really “free.”

Women? People of color? The poor, illiterate immigrant? No. On paper, we had freedom of (or from) religion, freedom of taxation without representation and so much more. The document that stated these things was beautifully written. Unfortunately, those old prejudices lived on. Many still do.

We had another war with Great Britain in 1812-again, the United States of America “won”.

About 85 years after the Revolutionary War,, we were fighting amongst ourselves. Was it about “states rights” or“slavery” . Most likely, it was about much more. A new and restless nation, part which had become a leader in world industry and another which had become an agrarian based society with little modern industry. It had found itself dependent on slave labor to make the growing and harvesting of it’s crops profitable. In Europe, such differences in culture and life-style generally produced a new “kingdom. Here, many saw the power of a nation of such size being “one country” as vital to being a world power. Among these men was Abraham Lincoln.

My great-grandfather spent three years without this “freedom”, as a Confederate Officer during the War between the States. He was called up to serve, went with quite a few family members to sing up and was later captured in what was written up as a cowardly surrender by his superior officer near Chattanooga, Tennessee. The letters that he wrote to his wife and children are still tucked in a drawer in my mother’s cedar chest.

This man did not have slaves, he fought for hearth and home, as the average Southern man did. He, in fact, went to court to support a “black” woman’s claim to freedom, and helped her win. He was not wealthy. Neither was the common Northerner who got caught up in this horrible tragedy. My Southern family had its homes burned, crops destroyed, women raped, cattle stolen. Does this make slavery right-absolutely not. Brothers were fighting cousins and uncles. Neighbors, who had gone to church together were suddenly enemies.

Over 500,00 Americans killed-still, we have to pay attention to the question that brought our country into being-are we free yet? The Civil War, The War Between the States, which ever one might call it, it was a tragedy that was not healed by the war, not necessary by any means and set our country back decades from what we should have been doing-upholding the constitution that we fought the British Empire to gain.

It is 1918. World war I has just ended. The Unitted States had tried to stay out of the war, sending supplies, money and support but not troops. Finally, seeing Great Britain and France falling, we were forced to enter this war with our troops. Then, as the war ended, our troops come home to confetti parades, electrically-light arches built in cities across the country to celebrate the end of “The War to End All Wars”. Were we “free” yet?

A terribly written and enforced “Peace Treaty”, The Treaty of Versailles” humiliated Germany, Italy and its neighbors, setting the stage for yet another unthinkably horrible war, only 30 years later. These people were ripe fr anyone who would help them regain their dignity and place in world power. Unfortunately, the “men” who showed up to help with this cause were those like Hitler and Mussolini.Even our “Allies”, such as Stalin were to become a scourge to freedom very soon after a war we fought on both sides of our country was ended in a most unthinkable way-the race for the creation of the atomic bomb. We “won.” Were we now “free?”

I think of slogans, some made popular in earlier wars, that each war fought was “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight”. Throughout history, the poor, the weak, slaves, simple farmers have fought and died while the wealthy, for the most part, sat it out, making plans that cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

There were wars across the world, the Greek Revolution, the “Cold War” with the Soviet Union, the chill of the Korean war, the steaming jungles of Viet Nam, they all haunted the concept of freedom. The violence over human rights and dignity here at home have only gradually began to find some answers. We still have a long way to go. Again, the idea of freedom for all is more a hope than a reality, even in the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave”.

I look at the use of religious beliefs as a cause of war. It is not a topic that many like to address. Yet, it is true,historically, many battles have been fought over religion, many people tortured and killed for holding the “wrong” beliefs at that particular time. There are fanatics in every faith. That makes no sense. If we are Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, Catholic, Judaic or any other in our belief, why can we not just live in peace and have respect fr the views of others? Will we every find this illusive “freedom” as long as fighting over just about any difference of opinion continues?

How many rows of graves, or ancient crypts will it take to obtain peace? This is a question without answer. I humbly remember and deeply respect all of those who gave their lives in the quest for what some leader demanded was necessary to finally procure “peace’. I will never understand how we can, “fight for peace”. What a horrible oxymoron. There has been so much loss, over and over. This essay may be too long, but it barely touches the history of war.

Why can we not coexist-live in a world where everyone is free from war and hate? The first step is to simply live our lives in a way that is respectful of others, moral, and honest . To continue to repeat the mistakes of the past is entirely useless.

 

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A Special Place

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Not far from my son’s high school, sits a mansion, Biltmore House, which was built by George Vanderbilt in the 1880′s. This was during the time when the wealthy seemed to be having a contest to see who could build the largest house. Many were in new York and on Cape Cod.

For some reason, this picture reminded me of the trees lining the way to the front of the house though to  see the beauty of nature leading to a comforting barn rather than a mansion was much more of my taste.DSCN1812

However, I must commend Mr. Vanderbilt and his family for their appreciation of nature, to help in starting Pisgah National Forest and the Forestry Movement as a whole. There are museums and fish hatcheries open to the public along a beautiful stretch of mountain highway, filled with the wonderful rumble of waterfalls, trails lined with wild flowers and nature preserves where we can still see what the beautiful Blue Ridge looked like before the retiree with money filled so many hillsides with their homes.

A line of deciduous trees is particularly beautiful in autumn when the leaves put on their grand show for a few weeks. Often, in spring, wild flowers decorate the area around the trunks, enhancing their beauty.

When I see a photo that reminds me of a location so very different than the red barn and the Biltmore mansion, it makes me realize that, in our hearts, the rich and the poor, the have and have-nots are not all that different in what they find attractive to the eye or soothing to the soul.59100010

I try to appreciate those, like the Vanderbilts, who saved thousands of acres from development (this was before income and property tax days, of course) donating and helping develop these areas that will be kept wild forever. The sound of a bubbling brook, the quiet of a deep green forest, unusual rock formations, accidental encounters with wild animals, all enrich the days of both the young and old.

It is doubtful that money will allow me to fulfill my dream, yet I keep dreaming.
“If I could just let this farmer know that I would not develop his precious farm before the developer comes up waving tons off money to a man who raised a family on $20.00 a week… If, if, if. I will keep trying, a will my children, and who knows, one day there may be a grove of trees and a barn, perhaps an old farm house with my name on it and my heart in it.

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The Oregon Trail and the Modern World

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History Majors are an ever-smaller group at our university it seems. If we aren’t finishing a degree in Computer science, business, accounting or the like, there is little need to get in line at the job fairs held on campus or at the mall. In my mind, that of a Public History Research major from the 1980;s, our “learning” is s far out of date we have little chance of being noticed. Yet, as I see my youngest son, obsessed with his computer and coding, never picking up a book to read, unless it is required, I see more and more need for courses to be required in subjects that teach us not only about the future, but how we got here. Who we are, where we came from and the process of learning are just as important to a Computer major as to one of us poor “do you want fries with that’ majors we used to joke about 30 years ago.

I may be wrong, but this photograph looks like one I once saw of the Oregon Trail. It was amazing to me that over a hundred years later, the ruts from the hundreds of wagon wheels traveling somewhere west of where ever the settlers had begun were still visible on the tall grass prairies which led settlers not only to Oregon, but many other places which, today, are as crowded and crime ridden as the ones these brave souls were escaping when the trails were made.

As a historian, genealogist and general lover of the studies of past places, countries and ways of life that lead us to the unbelievable places we can go today, I find learning about these cultures and how they thrived and often ultimately died of fascinating interest.

I admit, I almost agreed with some of my older children when they called the “Humanities” courses “Department Funders” In other words, they had no real use in the modern world. But as I get older, I have changed my mind. Hear the news about Vladimir Putin taking over the Crimea reminds me quickly of the horrors of Sevastopol during the wars with Great Britain in the 1850′s. It reminds me that thinking an event, or one similar to it will never happen again, is not only foolish, it is simply wrong.

I encourage all Universities, colleges and Even Technical Colleges to require students to have some knowledge of world history so that they can have a basis on which to prevent the errors of the past from repeating themselves.

And, lastly, I would like to see today’s children understand why they have the technologies they now possess and what their ancestors endured in order for them to live their lives of luxury, or at least,lives of hope.

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The Most Difficult Job

DSCN1871In my 58 years, I have had six kids. Raising them, loving them, being their mom was the greatest joy of my life. Sadly, I lost a son at age 15 from a sudden heart event during a baseball game. But this is not about him, it is about all children.

I look at my grandchildren now, and see their innocence, their joy at pleasing me, their “Beebee”. I walk in parks with them and their moms, along with my youngest son. It brings back such wonderful memories. We laugh, I take pictures of them climbing fallen trees, seeing fish or turtles or a red-headed ducks out on the lake. A bug skitters by and elicits a squeal from one of them. A snail, slowly making his way across the boardwalk delighting a grandson.

Besides the horror of loosing a child, one of the most difficult things a parent has to do is teach them to be adults, to allow them to grow up. When your child can fix his own lunch or lay our her own clothes(and they match!) is one of our first lessons in letting go. Of course, even before that, going to the potty alone or cleaning up a mess is a step in that direction. Believe me, it gets more difficult.

When your life has been centered on being the best mom that you could be, it is a tearful adventure to hear your youngest child talking about his plans for his future. For 38 years, I have had our own form of home-school on Saturdays, in summer, or even on school vacations. We have walked the paths of Gettysburg and splashed in the waves of beaches from Santa Barbara to cape Hatteras. It gos by so fast.We have been on educational trips, anywhere from the mountains at our doorstep to the Grand Canyon or Washington D.C..

Suddenly, the oldest will not come along and a new one will ride in a stroller. Perhaps some of the older “kids’ will meet you at your vacation spot with a car full of their friends. For a while, it is simply a milestone, and then your little group becomes smaller and smaller. They choose what they want to do on the trip, even where they want to go. You realize that the best days, the most precious days are rushing by, and a tear often trails a mothers cheek.

I have been through a lot, I will not try to put these ordeals, good or bad in numerical order. I will simply say this to those of you who still cuddle sleeping babies, go to “Kindergarten Parents Night”.

gently stroke feverish heads with a cool damp cloth-to breathe in every second, every sleepless night, every leap of joy when the school bus comes home, because, soon, they will be gone.

I picked up my teen at school today with a stomach virus, all ready to comfort him, bring him cool drinks, obsessively check on him, all those “mom” things that we learn to do, and realize that the ride home was all he really needed. He will get his license soon and independence is on the horizon.

Oh, he appreciated the kind words, the stokes of my hand through his hair, the cold drinks or peeps into his room, but I could tell that his smile of appreciation was more for my benefit than for his.

One feeling that I know I will keep with me forever is the joy of being needed, loved, appreciated by a child. There is nothing like it. I will still talk my teen into taking the grandchildren that I keep after school to the store and let him hold their hands and escort them to the toy section while I shop. I will ask him to go with us to the park and go to the grocery store with me. But I know, that it is my son, now, who is going for my pleasure, rather than me going for his. It is his joy at seeing me smile that that makes the day so fine. It is his reaching for the keys as we get in the car that makes me smile back.

I look at him with pure pleasure, 6 foot 3 inches tall, (taller than his father),shaving on occasion, his low-pitched voice asking me which store to go to, and know that I was one hell of a mom, and am now one hell of a grand-mom, and if I succeed in the hardest part of all-letting him grow up and be the man that I have worked so hard for him to be, that I will have done the hardest, most wonderful, rewarding, frustrating job in the world-be a parent, and one day walk with him as he skips through the park with his child.

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Memories of Younger Days…We are Stardust, We are Golden,,,

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Words to Woodstock theme song-1969-and thought on those days

 

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Well. I came across a child of God,he was walking along the road,

when I asked him where he was going,this he told me,

Well, I’m going down to Vascar’s Farm,going to join a rock-n-roll band,

going to live off on the land,and set my soul free.

We are stardust , we are golden,

and we got to set ourselves back to the garden,

By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong.

Everywhere I went, there were songs and celebrations.

Well, maybe it’s the time of year, or maybe it’s the time of man,

And i don’t know who I am, but life’s for learning,

we are stardust, we are golden,

and we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Ad I dreamed I saw the bombers, riding shotgun in the sky,

turning into butterflies above our nation.

We are stardust,we are golden,and we got to get our selves back to the garden.

Woodstock and then Altamont, the two outdoor concerts thatstill stand as monuments to the decade of love, the innoncense and irony of youth.  The song makes everything sound so wonderful, magical, yet in fsct, it rained during most of the festivsl, there were few sanitary fscilities, little food, people over-dosing on drugs and getting sick everywhere.  Litter and trash left to the farms owners to dispose of, and at Altamont, an African American man killed, right in front of the stage by the Hell’s Ageks motorcycle gang, who had been hired for “security”.  Now, when all of us who were too young to go, and only read, with envy, about going, to those who did, and found that it made a profound impact on their lives, we must remember youth as it really is.  Within a year, two of the stars of Woodstock, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin were dead of herion overdoses.

Decades later, we “baby-boomers” are retiring, grandparents, company executives or in some less fortunate cases, still stuck in a world that cannot be and never really was.  I look at my grandchildren and wonder  what the “Woodstock” will be, their pivotal event, how they ill look back on this yet-to-be-revealed event as they sit and tell their grand-kids about the glorious days of their youth.

Sometimes, I enjoy getting on you-tube and listening to interviews and songs from the stars of those days. I smile and remember that computers and “you tube” and cell phones were not yet even a dream to most of us.   It will be the same with our grand children. What was once our yet-to-be-invented future, will be their past. And we will not be able to imagine  what they tell their grandchildren about the magical days of their youth meant to them.

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A Trip to the Past

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“Serena,” Raven sputtered excitedly as they walked to the cafeteria beneath the beautiful autumn maples.

Raven turned around and giggled. “Serena, what’s wrong with you?

“There’s this new cafe off campus.”

“So?”smiled Raven, walking as they talked.

“Well, they serve tea ,coffee, hot chocolate or pastries, but that’s not the exciting part.”

“Then what is?” Raven asked, stopping in her tracks.

“When you walk in the door, you go back in time.” Serena whispered. “I swear. I thought I’d been drugged. Even my clothes were from the middle ages. Everything was, the food….”

“Raven grabbed Serena’s hand. “What are you waiting for, let’s go!”

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A Gift for the Market

The sun was a ball of fire rising through the fog. Finally, the clatter of rain had turned to an autumn portrait of drying flood waters. We rode down the muddy path in our weathered farm wagon, bumping along, hooves clomping, with the wagon filled with produce for the market in town.

The chill in the air, the slush of mud, I pulled my shawl close around me. Then I saw the reflection of the wet green world upon the river. I realized that without both the sun and the rain, we would not be on our way to market.

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Not Close Enough

For 27 years I prayed when I felt God talking to me. Felt He was saying what he wanted me to do and that he would keep my kids safe and me healthy, if I obeyed. I tried, with all I had and believed, even though kt was hard because nothing ever worked out for me. On a regular day, after a year of fear and worry, feeling like things were just not right, my son ran up a baseball field, collapsed and died before a ridiculously slow ambulance came. It must have gone to the wrong ball park-there was a fire station within sight of the ball field.

He died, over the next few months I began to get sick. I got Cushings Disease, Scoliosis, heart failure, a mitral heart valve. The stress on my family made life so hard. No one understood my pain, physical or mental.

I believed, I tried, I lost. It is hard to have faith in the sun coming up now. I really felt promised, if I had patience, worked hard. Why did my son pay the price. Life has always been a struggle. No, it is a lie. All the good, my kids and grand kids are precious, but the hole in my heart, literally and physically will never heal. Wrong is wrong, no matter where is comes from.

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As Fragile as Glass

Three years ago, I lost my mom.

She had been fading for years, but we still talked,

we laughed and loved.

It seems like since then loss and loneliness

have been so much of my life.

I feel like I am drowning.

After loosing my child, hope, faith,

and that special closeness with my family,

I feel I will never capture the joy in life again.

I can only beg you, young people,

to take that joy, when you find it,

and treat it as thought it was glass, because it is.

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A Precious Soul

She is 86 years young. I grew up to this amazing person, my aunt, youngest sister of my mother.

Since I was a toddler, I would walk up the hill to her house, plant flowers with her, watch her can vegetables, help her work in the garden, and help decorate for Christmas.

When I was a young adult, trying to survive a disastrous marriage, be a single mom, work and go to school, she made sure my kids and I had clothes, food, toys. Even today at her last siblings funeral, she smiled at me and said, “Maybe someday I can make up to you all that you have done for me.”

I smiled and quietly whispered, “If I were to live a thousand years I could not begin to make u for all you have done for me.”
I think often of what the world would be like if it were full of people like my aunt. She listens, she cares, she is generous, considerate, loving beyond all reason. I envy her thoughtfulness, honesty, willingness to help, or even to be kind when she disagrees.

If ever there has been a person who is “my precious. Is is my aunt, who is like a “sister”and friend as well. I have shared my joys and sorrows with her, helped her with her ailing elders, and enjoyed visits to her house several times a week, if not more. When I thin of the word, “beautiful”, her face comes to mind. She is the kind of person that makes life worth living on my worst day, a true treasure.

Thanks for being ‘my precious’, Aunt Phib!

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