Posts tagged American Civil War
Like an ancient Greek tragedy in which the events play out unavoidable tides of Fate, the debt limit “crisis” engineered by Republicans may be part of an inevitable pattern of history. The world may dodge this particular cannon ball, though as I write this on Saturday, that appears by no means certain. (Late addition: As of Sunday night, there is a deal; but Congress has yet to act, and anything can still happen.) Even if we survive this threat, a few years from now, we may look back to see overwhelming catastrophe to have been bearing down on us like an avalanche.
More than a decade ago, social historians William Strauss and Neil Howe assembled a fascinating theory of cyclical trends, The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny. It’s a compelling read, and a heart stopping concept, breathtaking in scope and explanatory power. If they’re right, we’re on the cusp of disaster. That we are witnessing the worst economic downturn in eighty years is no accident.
(Remember that number: eighty years.) (more…)
Yesterday, July 24, hundreds of same-sex couples tied the knot in New York. Not coincidentally, late last week, Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen confirmed that the U.S. military had met all needed conditions for the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. As of last Friday, July 22, gays and lesbians may serve in the American armed forces without fear of being discharged because of their sexual orientation.
These two momentous changes are part of an ongoing revolution in American society — or rather, they are part of the ongoing revolution that is American society. Our nation exists as a nation because a group of colonists decided that people could rule themselves, that the rulers of a nation did not have to be warlords or hereditary élites.
People had never done this before, never consciously set out to create a nation, never imagined that the people of a nation could govern themselves. The idea had been a long time coming, with roots in Athenian democracy and in the British internal revolt against King John that let to the Magna Carta. But these were matters of modifying existing structures, and even the modifications perpetuated the privilege of the classes who always had held power.
For America’s first century, much of the world looked on, unconvinced the experiment in self-governance could succeed. Abraham Lincoln explicitly acknowledged this in November of 1863 in his address at the battlefield of Gettysburg. That was the essence of his speech, encapsulating, in a mere two hundred seventy eight words, both the promise of our nation, and its beating heart. “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” (more…)