Blue Cereal's blog

Stop Saving History

Anyone? Anyone?In the same way your memory of an event will gradually evolve to fit the way you tell it over the years, I respectfully suggest we’ve been told the same few lies about public schools – then as much as now – often enough that we’ve started to buy into the clichés. Unless we stop and question it, at least with ourselves, we become one more purveyor of the same sort of shibboleth – thoughtless, foundationless folderol of the sort we mock when we recognize it from others.

Authors vs. Ideas

In November of 2017, Tyler Seguin’s name started popping up in hockey news headlines. That in and of itself is not so unusual; he’s a marquee player for the Dallas Stars and a damned pretty man. These headlines, however, were not about his on-ice skill or make-your-gate-swing-the-other-way smile…

Tyler Headline 1
They weren’t all quite that blunt….

Cursive, Foiled Again! (Repost)

I arrived at the testing center nervous, but ready to dive in. I remember a locker for my personal belongings, and some guidelines I had to read. Then came the clipboard.

“Read and copy the following certification of something or other IN YOUR OWN HANDWRITING and sign and date at the bottom.” I hadn’t planned on this – a long list of formalities I’d have to copy in a foreign script before I’d even be allowed to begin the actual test. The timed test. The one determining if the past two-and-a-half years of my life had been worth it. The one potentially ruining everything. The one I was already worried about, despite weeks of stressful preparation. The one for whom the clock was already ticking.

Tiananmen Square ("Have To" History)

Three Big Things:

1. In 1989, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, was one of many sites across China where citizens marched, chanted, and otherwise protested government corruption; they demanded reforms and protection of basic human rights.

2. Government response was brutal, especially at Tiananmen Square; foreign reporters and photographers managed to smuggle out stories and media of the Chinese military abusing and executing protestors.

3. One especially poignant video (and the still photo encapsulating it) shows an unknown individual waving his arms at a tank, then climbing up and shouting at the operators before being rushed off by equally unknown figures. This individual has since been remembered as “Tank Man.”

"Have To" History: The Xhosa Cattle-Killing Movement (1856 - 1857)

Nongqawuse & FriendThree Big Things:

1. The Xhosa were a South African people threatened by European encroachment beginning in the 17th century.

2. In 1856, a young Xhosa girl encountered two supernatural strangers who told her a time of renewal was coming but must be preceded by the slaughter of their existing cattle and crops.

3. The resulting Cattle-Killing Movement left the Xhosa destitute and divided against themselves. Over a century and a half later, they remain one of South Africa’s poorest demographics.

The Ghost Dance Movement(s)

Three Big Things:

Ghost Dance Green1. The tribes of the Great Plains faced confinement or extermination as the 19th century drew to a close; they were desperate and confused in the face of ongoing U.S. expansion, aggression, and manipulation.

2. The “Ghost Dance” promised to bring back their former way of life, to raise their dead, and to bring peace and prosperity to all who believed.

3. Variations in tribal interpretations of “Ghost Dance” teachings and white fears of Amerindian uprisings led to unnecessary death and violence, most notably at Wounded Knee in 1890 – the effective end of Native resistance on the Great Plains.

It's About What You Believe (Wonder Woman)

Wonder Woman Movie CoverI’m a sucker for superhero movies. They’re a sub-genre of sci-fi, and the best sci-fi takes us out of our reality, out of our time and place, to better comment on that reality and force fresh eyes on our time and place. A good superhero picture isn’t about the cool powers and mega-battles; it’s about becoming better versions of our boring ol’ selves.

The Second Boer War ("Have To" History)

Rhodes ColossusConveniently for future history students, the complexities of Anglo-Boer relations coalesced at this point into two colorful personalities. Representing Transvaal was President Paul Kruger, a Boer nationalist whose street cred went all the way back to the Great Trek. Flying the Union Jack was Cecil Rhodes, Premier of the Cape Colony and founder of DeBeer Diamonds. You’ve probably seen that political cartoon of him standing spread-legged across Africa – claiming the continent for Queen, country, and white culture everywhere.

The Boers & The First Boer War ("Have To" History)

Three Big Things:

Armed Boers

1. The Boers were white descendants of Dutch, German, and French Protestants who settled the Cape of Good Hope in the mid-17th century. They were farmers and ranchers who believed they were among God’s most favored elect. 

2. There were two distinct wars between the Boers and the British – the Boers won the first using superior horsemanship and marksmanship combined with a willingness to run and hide.

3. Neither side thought much of native Africans, who were attacked, enslaved, or exploited as necessary to achieve Boer or British goals. This created some long-term racial tensions in Southern Africa.