Includes thoughts and comments about energy needs, resources, conservation and their relationship to politics at home and around the world.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Lessons of Life

I am now into my 82d year on planet Earth. Consequently, I probably don't have much more time here and I want to share with you a few observations about our country, its people and its future.

The American Dream

Those courageous Europeans and British who risked their lives to come to the New World early in the 17th century hoped to establish a better life than the one they were leaving behind. They sought the freedom to worship God in a manner of their choosing, not that of monarchies and other rulers who had forced them to bend to their demands. They wanted the freedom to pursue a life based on their own abilities and desires, not one based on the dictates and demands of others. They knew life was not going to be easy in a strange, undeveloped land. They swore to cooperate with their fellow shipmates in the interest of protecting one another and to achieve as a group what would be very difficult to do as individuals. Thus began the greatest experiment in governance ever known to mankind.

New World Lessons

  • Native Americans

One of the first challenges encountered in the New World was the native population. Relations with the natives were mixed. First contact between the Pilgrims and natives in what is now Massachusetts was on Cape Cod where the Mayflower first dropped anchor in 1620. There were several small tribes on the Cape, some reasonably friendly to the newcomers, others less so. The latter plus an apparent scarcity of fresh water caused the Pilgrims to weigh anchor and press onward across Cape Cod Bay to make landing in what became Plymouth.

Relations between the early Plymouth settlers and natives more or less stabilized. As the colony grew its need for foodstuff outgrew the boundaries of the colony. This led to another look at the Cape Cod area as an agricultural resource which it indeed became.

Eventually, of course, the population of the settlers grew resulting in what became the Westward Expansion and more contact with natives, much of it not friendly. Needless to say, the settlers were moving in on the natives' territory which made for delicate relations from the outset. By and large the natives were nomadic and did not view land ownership the same way as the settlers and those who followed. Still, they resented what they must have seen as an invasion of their space and relations with natives reflected that even into the 20th century.

  • The Fight for Territory

Native Americans were not the only problem settlers faced. There were also the French, British and Spanish explorers who competed for territory. This brought on the French and Indian Wars, the American Revolution and War of 1812 against the British, and the Spanish American War.

  • American Revolution

We were not yet a nation when the French and Indian Wars were fought nor were we when we began having increasing trouble with British rule. We were 13 colonies loosely held together in the Continental Congress when friction between colonists and the British finally ignited open rebellion. Not all colonists favored going up against the British, but there was enough support to move the fledgling country to ultimate victory with the help of George Washington's citizen's army, LaFayette and Hessian mercenaries.

  • The Pioneers

In the vanguard of those who moved westward were a special breed of people who sought to remove themselves from the growing hubbub of established cities and towns in the East. They chose to become pioneers because they wanted space and freedom. They wanted to live and work by their own rules, not someone else's. In a very real sense they were carrying on the same spirit and motivation felt by those early settlers of Plymouth and the original 13 colonies.

To me there is nothing to compare to the pioneering spirit and I believe that has been what made and has kept this country the strongest nation on Earth. My father's family came here as immigrants from Finland in the 1890s and pioneered in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Dad's mother practiced folk medicine throughout the area where she was known as the "Finnish Doctor Lady". In the long cold winter months, she went by skis and snowshoes to visit her patients well up into her 70s. Truly, she displayed the pioneer spirit.

Civil War

Public school children are taught that the Civil War was fought over slavery. Actually, the central issue was "states rights" and the usurpation of those rights by the federal government. Slavery became a major element in the conflict because of its practice in the Southern states that seceded from the Union to form the Confederacy.

Early in the war the Confederacy whipped Union forces at almost every turn. As the war wore on, the Union reversed those outcomes largely because of its industrial might which the Confederacy had very little of.

While the Union was victorious in that bloody conflict eventually, animosity between the North and South over the issue of slavery continued well into the 20th century. It still smolders in many places in the country and has morphed into racist attitudes between Whites, Blacks and other miniority groups such as Hispanic illegal immigrants and Southeast Asians. We pride ourselcves in this being the melting pot of nations, but friction continues nevertheless.

The Industrial Revolution

Until around the middle of the 19th century, the world consisted of mostly agrarian societies. The advent of the steam engine, electricity. internal combustion engines, oil and gas reduced the number of people in agriculture. By the beginning of the 20th century, the industrial revolution was well under way, especially in the northern hemisphere. People began a steady migration from the farm to the city and its factories. The transition was not always easy and still isn't for many. Working a farm was never easy but it did allow people a sense of independence and freedom that simply doesn't exist in most metropolitan areas.


The industrial revolution brought with it a clash between labor and management over safety, work hours, wages, minimum age of workers, and other issues. The concept of "guilds" for workers in different trades had begun in Europe and Great Britain before the revolution. Interest in forming guilds or "unions" quickly built up here as we entered the 20th century. Unions gave workers a more forceful voice in negotiating with management on the issues plus the ability to go out on strike if agreement couldn't be reached.

Union activities pose a two-edged sword for society. It cannot be denied that unions have succeeded in bringing about safer work conditions and the creation of sensible child labor laws. They have also succeeded in getting employers to pay reasonable wages and benefits aimed at helping employees pay for their living needs including health, savings and retirement plans. Those are the positive impacts unions have made, but there are some negatives as well.

For example, the United Auto Workers were so successful in getting the Big 3 automakers to knuckle under to their wage, employee and retiree benefit demands that it has put the carmakers in a non-competitive position with foreign automakers. That is especially true of those assembling their products here in the USA. Now, in the midst of the worst economy since the Great Deprsssion, the unions want the new administration in Washington to force the "card check" system of employee voting in their efforts to get in to currently non-union shops. That system runs contrary to the principle of voting in secret and makes it easy for umscruplous union leaders to coerce workers.

World War I

World War I started out between Central European countries early in the second decade of the 20th century. Initially, it was of little interest to most Americans except those who were related to people in the warring countries. The war spread and drew into it both France and Great Britain as allies and other countries throughout the area. German submarines began attacking and sinking allied shipping in the Atlantic including non-combat vessels like the Lusitania which ultimately brought us into the conflict as well.

Many naturalized citizens and first generation Americans volunteered for military service in France. That included my father even though he did not have to go because he had a wife and child. His unit, the 26th Infantry Division, saw considerable combat and Dad was severely wounded in July 1918 near Belleau Wood in France. Dispite his wounds, which kept him in Army hospitals until 1921, he never complained. He opposed the veterans' march on Washington that demanded payment of a bonus for service in France. He loved his adopted country and believed it was his duty and an honor to defend our freedom in that war.

The Rise of Socialism and Communism

Russia dropped out of WWI to fight a rebellion against the Czarist rulers which gave rise to communism and the establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR. This brought together diverse ethnic populations under a new totalitarian rule predicated in the theories of Karl Marx et al ( i.e., from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs). There would be no private property rights, all land would be owned by the government and the people would live in communes. Agriculture would dominate areas like the Ukraine while industry would dominate in other areas. All production would be owned by the government. The people would have very little say in the choice of education or their life's work. Not a very happy picture, to say the least.

The rest of the world would soon find itself in a deep economic depression brought on by a variety of factors. In Germany, it was a result of the terms of her WWI surrender to the Allies wherein strict controls were placed on all manufacturing that could have any tie to military force or warfare. Conditions there led to the rise to power of Adolph Hitler and the National Social Democratic Party, later to be known as the Nazi Party. The other Western European countries (France, Belgium, Netherlands plus Great Britain) also had depressed economies but not as bad as Germany, Austria and Eastern European countries (Czechoslavakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Greece, Italy etc.).

Economic depression became fertile ground for sowing the seeds of socialism and communism throughout Europe and it would soon find its way across the Atlantic. Socialism and communism got its foothold here following an international conference on the subject held in Moscow. Attendees, including a number of American educators, labor union leaders and others were asked to return to their home countries and infiltrate their nations' systems of higher education and labor forces. They were to encourage creation of "cells" of like thinkers to spread the word and ultimately to take over their governments.

Until now we've succeeded in slowing the conversion process, but the pressure for "change" continues unabated. Now we are in another economic crisis which could push the nation over the brink into a 100% socialist/communist state. The situation is further complicated by the growth of yet another non-democratic belief system ... Islam.

The Islamic Threat

The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, including the flight that went down in Pennsylvania on its way to the nation's capitol, were planned and carried out by Islamic terrorists. Those attacks followed many smaller though no less deadly and terrifying attacks against us and other Western countries over several decades. While some may believe the attacks stem from our support of Israel, the problem with Islam goes much deeper than that. It goes to the very core of Islam ... the Quran. The Quran is less a religious treatise than it is the basis for spreading Islam all over the world as a harsh political force. Under that force women are property of the men and are treated as slaves. They have no freedom in the choice of their clothing nor are they permitted an education beyond Islamic primary and secondary schools. Only men can rule and death can come to them very quickly if they voice disagreement with the mullahs and imans. No thinking American would want that kind of life.

Barack Hussein Obama

As I write this, the 44th President of the United States of America has just finished taking the oath of office and presenting his inaugural address before hundreds of thousands of people in Washington. He is a great speaker but what he does now that he's in the White House will be how he will be judged. I admit I am concerned that he will only succeed in moving us closer to if not into a total socialist state. I hope and pray that my concerns are ill founded.


Post a Comment

<< Home