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I'm a single Mormon Democrat, an NPR & BBC news junkie, a dog lover, opera buff, bookavore, migraineur, knows just enough about technology to be a danger to myself, fan of James Bond and Godzilla. 

Micah 6:8; D&C 11:20 

"do justly, walk humbly, judge righteously."

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Maya, the Civil War, and the Tea Party

I know what you're thinking. What on Earth do those three items have to do with each other? Well, I have been reading the new history of the start of the Civil War by Adam Goodheart, 1861: The Civil War Awakening This is an excellent history and has been very well received. While reading, I have noticed alarmingly the similarities between the atmosphere in 1860s Washington DC and today's Washington. The partisanship, the demonization of your opponent, the demonization of the newly elected president, the sense of impending doom, the emergence of a new movement. The conservatives (not necessarily Republican) were worried about what would happen if civil rights were apportioned to a minority group. Then, it was slaves. Today? It could be the LGBT community, undocumented aliens, Muslims.

From page 77 of 1861:
On January 7, Senator Robert Toombs of Georgia used his departure speech to fire parting shots at "Black Republicans" and abolitionists: "We want no negro equality, no negro citizenship; we want to negro race to degrade our own; and as one man [we] would meet you upon the border with the sword in one hand and the torch in the other."
Alarming, isn't it? Remove the word negro and replace it with homosexual, and it would not be dated at all.

And on page 70:
...Senator Thomas Clingman of North Carolina, seizing the floor by responding to a routine motion about printing a document, swerved sharply into an hour-long attack on the president-elect as a "dangerous man" whose aim was "to make war on my section [of the country] until its social system is destroyed."
 Again, something you have heard in the volatile political atmosphere that we have today. For instance, I have a neighbor - a nice, gentle man - who once told me that President Obama had "Muslims and Communists" in his government. He was an older gentleman who spent his winters in Arizona - a snowbird as they're known. Yet, he thinks that Glenn Beck spreads the truth and that President Obama is one of the greatest threats this country has ever known. It took me back. I have a hard time understanding why wanting to provide healthcare for all, protecting consumers, providing better financial regulation - why are all these interpreted as a threat?

Because it's a change to their "social system" - as Senator Clingman would've said.

Another similarity was that the Senate was filled with younger members at this time. All the "old gentlemen" of the Senate had gone. Senator Crittenden was the lone remnant of the old gentlemen left. The old gentlemen of compromise. Compromising has not always been a dirty word as the Tea Party would have us believe. This country was founded and preserved by compromise. But the old Compromisers were gone: Webster and Clay were dead, as was Thomas Hart Benton, and others like John Bell and Sam Houston had returned home to their states.

Sound familiar? We have lost some of our giants: Robert Byrd and Teddy Kennedy are two I can think of, but there have been others. So, we are left we relatively inexperienced Senators (and Representatives) who do not have as strong a loyalty to the art of compromise and the deal. There was even a strange movement during the 1860's called the Wide Awake movement. These young men marched for change, though, not against it. It spread from New England to the Midwest. And it scared people - it made them think there was actually revolution in the air.

Media - like today - was also in the mix. There may have been no television, radio, or internet - but newprint had spread like wildfire. The average citizen could read about all these events and be roused up by the talent of a scurrilous journalist or editor. People were scared. They were scared that the Union would be destroyed and the stock market was scared as well. Like today.

And this is what takes me to the Maya. The Maya had a very complex calendar system. The Mayan Long Count calendar was divided into segments. One of these was the k'atun which was 260th of the entire Long Count which corresponded to 19.7 years. What makes these significant is that the Maya believed that time came in cycles.

Maybe they are right. It seems like we go through the same cycles here. Perhaps that gives me a little hope. If we go through cycles, doesn't that mean we will come through this to better times? I'd like to think so. However, we should also take responsibility of the world we are in. Another time that this is like is the 1930's - and I am not just thinking of the Great Depression. I am thinking of the rise of fascism. The union busting in Wisconsin and other states is similar to how corporations acted in that time. FDR was also demonized. But, remember, it was not a pleasant time to be alive. Think of the fascist takeovers. The populist groups like Mussolini's black shirts and Hitler's brown shirts. We all need to be aware and not swayed by the next talking head on the television or radio. Make sure your facts are right. And, above all, do not trust your neighbors to make the right decision with their vote. Democracy is a privilege - exercise it.