November 2018

Blame

When authors repeat a theme with minor variations, they’re trying to tell you something. Great literature does it, Broadway musicals do it, even sitcoms do it. Two stories, melodies, or wacky conflicts weave around one another, each echoing and expanding the other. The parallels between this passage and the account of mankind’s initial fall are striking – as are the differences. 

The right clergyman could preach a Venn Diagram of these for a straight month.

John Ross vs. the 1835 Treaty of New Echota (from "Well, OK Then...")

Chief John Ross was a “mixed-blood” Cherokee who nevertheless became the best-known and arguably the most effective tribal leader of his generation. His supporters tended to lean traditional – they were conservative, and old-school – wanting little or no contact with whites and uninterested in their version of “progress.” 

Because he would not agree to voluntary removal, the U.S. found others in the tribe who would. They plied them with land and money and the argument that this was going to happen one way or the other – so they might as well make it as painless as possible. The signers of the Treaty of New Echota (1835) violated the most sacred of Cherokee laws while lacking the status to even speak for the tribe to begin with.

This Land Is Whose Land? (From "Well, OK Then...")

People wonder why to this day Oklahoma is one giant inferiority complex, with a side of paranoid delusion. Texas proudly waves its ‘six flags’ representing various stages of its history. Oklahoma had three prior to statehood, playing ‘hot potato’ with us like the homely friend of the popular girls they were really looking to – um… "homestead."

But finally, a nation that needed us! That could appreciate us! Say what you like about the early U.S., they were some exploring and expanding fools! President Jefferson sent out Lewis and Clark and Co., who began mapping the entire area of – 

Hey! Where are you going? Meriwether! Bill! Down here, big fellas! It’s me, Okla –

*sigh*

Land Ownership and the Foundations of Democracy, Part Two (Westward, Ho!)

My son would fill his tray with everything he could fit in, including that cafeteria classic – brightly colored, cubed Jello. My daughter was much pickier, but inevitably she chose the wiggly cubes as well. The boy would snarf down his selections in minutes; the girl would take hours if we let her. 

It is worth noting that she didn’t usually eat the Jello. 

She liked to look at it. The table would inevitably get jostled a bit, or otherwise nudged, and the Jello would wiggle. It’s what Jello does. She loved that. And, to be fair, that’s just as valid a use for Jello as any other. (Just because something is edible doesn’t mean it serves no other function – otherwise, neither houseplants nor family pets would be around long.) 

But that’s not how my son saw it.

Land Ownership and the Foundations of Democracy, Part One (What Made This Particular Destiny So Manifest?)

So we have two issues in play as the Founders wrestle with outlining this new government – the connection between paying into the system and thus earning a voice in the running of that system, and the practical challenges of who exactly “consents” to that government on behalf of the whole. Little wonder our progenitors might try to reconcile them in concert – hopefully without overtly dialing back those fancy new ideals they’d been proclaiming to justify the entire project. 

They weren’t starting from scratch. There were some longstanding assumptions about land ownership – or the lack thereof – with which they could begin.

The American Civil War, Part One (1861-1865) - From "Have To" History

Three Big Things:

Civil War Flags1. The North had more of everything except capable military leadership. They also weren’t fighting to defend their home states, their farms or families, or their overly-romanticized “way of life.” Despite Lincoln’s best efforts, the North kept finding ways to lose for most of the first half of the war.

2. Both sides assumed the war would be brief and glorious. Except for a few experienced military men who remembered the Mexican-American War, troops on both sides went in “green” – inexperienced and ignorant of what they were getting into. Many were excited by the chance to fight. Once they’d “seen the elephant,” however, that enthusiasm was quickly tempered.

3. July 1863 was the turning point of the Civil War. From that month forward, the outcome was inevitable – the South was going to lose. The fact that they prolonged it as long as they did was either noble or especially tragic, given the extensive damage it was necessary to inflict before they surrendered.