Tag Archives: American History

The Redemption of Colonization

17 Sep

I only play computer games that are (at least) five years old. So I went back to play Sid Meier’s Colonization–the original from 1994–and thought… how can I play this in such a way that I don’t genocide the Native Americans?

Colonization is a dirty word these days, so it’s not surprising that this game doesn’t get a lot of love. For those of you not familiar with either the ’94 or ’08 remake, the idea is that you play one of the four major colonizing powers (English, France, Spain, or Netherlands), build up settlements in the New World, build up your cash crops, deal with the Indians, and eventually build up a power base to declare independence from your European power… and then win the war and gain your freedom!

You see the problem. In academic circles, this would be called exploitative, early-stage capitalism (and late-stage mercantilism), and terribly, terribly racist. And it is… after all, he only problem is that the most ideal spaces to build a colony are already taken… by the native inhabitants. (Fancy that!) However, this IS what happened in our history, so it should not be hidden or ignored. It is also terribly enjoyable, but instead of playing the “normal” way (wipe out the inconvenient Indians, pacify the convenient ones, and build your Empire), I decided to take (what I’m calling) the Treaty of Waitangi approach.

For most of us, that makes no sense, but it was a treaty signed in New Zealand between the British and the local Maoris that granted (local) sovereignty to the Maoris, in exchange for Brits being able to buy land to put it under that control. Most of this treaty was ignored, the Maoris were exploited, BUT… after several wars and a hundred years, the New Zealand government decided to actually follow this treaty and made reparations, creating a joint government between Anglos and Maori.

So what I do is settle on the land NOT occupied by the natives and give them a wide berth, send out missions to pacify the nearby tribes (yeah, I’m not Christian either, but it works! Think of them as embassies), and agree to every Indian request for food. The result? Peaceable colonies, only ONE fight with the natives, and plenty of room to expand. My current game is in the Pacific, so I only occupied HALF of New Zealand, and I’m still working my way across Australia. No genocide of Tasmania, the aboriginals still control half the country, and I’m still able to exploit most of the subcontinent to my heart’s content.

Usually in my games, the natives get honked off, and I have to fight off Indian attacks until I have to destroy the nearby villages to protect my colonies. However now… we have a good balance. I do wonder what the future of this approach would be for an independent Australasia. My guess is the Canadian model; unequal treaties, intermarriage (half-breeds commonplace or Metis), and smaller and smaller reserves for the Native population. Not genocidal, but just as exploitive. I would PREFER to think that the two populations would blend into a new culture, half-European, half-native… but history tells us that doesn’t happen. Even in places where the native population still overwhelms the European settlers (like Samoa), the native culture still suffers.

So I’m still being exploitive, but with the best intentions. What do you think? Is there a way to redeem Christopher Columbus (there’s a whole sci-fi book written on this topic)? Or do we just plow through the way history actually happened? Or do we just assure ourselves, “It’s a game, it’s NOT history?” Let me know in the comments below!

Campaign in Poetry, Govern in Prose

20 May

Soundbites are wonderful slogans. “No person is illegal.” “It’s a life, not a choice.” “Black lives matter.” “Sola Scriptura, Sola Fidei, Sola Deo Gratia.” (That’s a much older slogan.) The problems come when you take a slogan and try to make that a policy.

I’ve been reading Apostles of Reason: Crisis of Authority in American Evangelism by Molly Worthen, which sounds like a snooze fest, but is actually one of the most interesting, most compelling modern histories I’ve read. She’s writing the history of the evangelical movement in America, starting in the 1920’s (although as she says, you could start it anywhere in American history), and telling how a few ministers and theologians started off with an idea of church reform, which became church growth, which became a reaction to counter-culture, leading to the Moral Majority in the 1980’s.

The main issue that evangelicals have to wrestle with is the details. Sure, it’s easy to say the Three Solas of the Reformation: “Sola Scriptura, Sola Fidei, Sola Deo Gratia.” (By scripture alone, by faith alone, and by the grace of God alone.) But how does that translate into what you believe? We believe in scripture alone. Okay, does that mean the Word of God is inerrant and perfect? But then how to explain all the “copying errors” in the Bible that actually change the meaning of sentences? How do you reconcile parts of the Bible that make no sense–my favorite being Exodus 4:24-26, God coming to kill Moses right after the Burning Bush incident.

The more I thought about it, the more this applies to other slogans as well. Slogans are great–they unify us in a common cause, they’re easier to shout at rallies, they get people to the polls. However, because your supporters come to together, when you get to actually changing policy, many of your supporters will feel betrayed because they never thought about “what happens next?”

Okay, let’s take “defund the police.” To some people that means, the police are the reason there’s so much violence, let’s get rid of it. To other people that means, we force a reform of the police, break up the union, you’re likely to get better cops. To some others, it might mean, the police have too much money, so they buy military equipment to abuse our citizens. If they had less money, they’d be less militarized. So let’s say you go with option three: you’ve alienated the “no cops” crowd, disappointed the reformers, and may not get what you expect with option three. The police department may react by hiring fewer officers and keeping all that equipment.

If you’re goal is simple and direct, you’re less likely to fracture once you hit your goal, but then how do you keep your organization together? What comes next? In some cases, like Society for the Preservation of the Real Thing and Old Cola Drinkers of America, once you get original Coca-Cola back (yes, Coke changed it’s formula and a massive upswell of support brought back the original formula 71 days later), they simply disband. If you’re about Gay Marriage, when you get gay marriage, you then simply touch on other issues like, custody rights, hospital visitation rights, social security benefits… et al.

So for some, the fight never ends. You may think this is a good thing, you might support it but no longer actively, or you might think this is a betrayal of the cause. Take smoking. We went from 45 percent of Americans being regular smokers in 1965 to 15. That should be cause to celebrate, right? But no, obviously we need to work on the remaining 15. Now in a time where smoking is banned in public in almost every state in America, the anti-smoking movement still pushes against cigarettes and vaping. (But not cigars or pipes… or marijuana…. I wonder why?) The American Cancer Society is forced to bring up second-hand (and sometimes third-hand) smoke to press their claims. You get more granular and you start losing focus.

So here’s where I could get into activists changing the message to get more people on their side, but I fear I’m crossing into dangerous territory, so I’ll leave it there. But what do you think? Is it harder to pursue the fight when you actually have to implement your rules? Is the cause more valuable when you’ve achieved your initial goals? Let me know in the comments below! Then if you like reading my writing, check out one of my books. However, if $1.99 is too steep for your wallet, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. You’ll be glad you did.

When Do I Get to Be the Mom?

19 May

In the flight to the suburbs in the 50’s, Americans didn’t just leave the city behind, they left their parents behind as well. Grandparents had frequently lived with their grandchildren throughout American history… until we could afford not to.

I was reading a article about how Sun City, Arizona was created as one of the first retirement communities. (I pick up the weirdest articles–which if you read this blog, you already knew.) Now older people had been travelling to Arizona for sometime, but usually because they had tuberculosis, and the dry environment helped them live longer. My own great-aunt Josephine moved out to Tucson for her husband’s TB.

However, with wealth came separation. The affordable car allowed people to live further away from their workplace, so instead of living in a cramped row house or apartment in the city, why not move out to the suburbs? Land was cheap, construction was available, and so they moved. However, they still had the place in the city, and often parents didn’t want to move, so… leave them there. Often there was one of many adult children who took care of them. Suddenly there was a mind shift. Americans now didn’t live with with their parents, making it the exception, not the rule.

Once I watched the movie Avalon (1990), and although it’s something I’ve never watched again, it’s a really cool film about three generations of the same family coming to, then adapting to living in America. However, in the story, the second generation takes their parents with them to the suburbs. Although this cuts them from their extended family, the daughter-in-law gets annoyed watching her mother-in-law undercut her authority with her own daughter. So the daughter-in-law goes to her husband and asks, “When do I get to be the Mom?” The next scene, the parents are moved out to a retirement home.

So… unwanted by their families, we developed a culture of nursing homes and retirement communities. My own grandfather (dad’s dad) made his entire career building nursing homes across the Midwest… and then lived his retirement in his own home and died there. Of course, my family is weird that way. My mom’s parents lived on their own, sunbirded down to Texas during the winter, until they couldn’t any more. When my grandpa died, then grandma injured herself and couldn’t stay alone. She spent the last ten years of her life in a nursing home, barely present.

We tried to do the right thing with my wife’s parents–they had four kids, so the single one lived with them and helped take care of them. But sooner or later, the work of caring for them became more than one person could do simply by living there… it became their full-time commitment. Then two kids’ commitment. Then finally, it was too much for all of them. My in-laws were moved to a nursing home; my father-in-law died within six months. My mother-in-law was moved to Texas to be near two of her daughters… but still in a nursing home.

With extended lifespans, it seems almost inevitable that we will grow more isolated as we get older. There’s a price to be paid for living longer… and man, is that a depressing thought to end this post on. However, there is a whole culture and a whole industry built around the elderly. I’ve skirted around it going to veteran’s bars where I’m the youngest guy in there at 45. The beast adapts. But what’s your story? Let me know in the comments below! Then if you still have time on this earth, check out one of my books. However, if $1.99 cuts into your retirement fund, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. I’d appreciate it.

“I didn’t change, the party changed!”

9 Apr

We’re in the midst of a party realignment–what it means to be Democrat or Republican in the 20’s is not what it was even ten years ago. How will this end? Well, we can see what happened in America when this happened at least twice before.

It’s a common fallacy that how things are today are how things have always been. America tends to be a two-party state, although it wasn’t designed that way, it’s a consequence of having single-member districts. When you can only elect one representative for one area, you need to have a large enough party organization to cover multiple district races in order to promote change. You have to convince enough voters that “we have the votes to get you what you want,” and that’s a lot easier if you can get a majority in the legislature.

In India, they’re able to do this by creating coalitions of like-minded parties. When they talk about the BJP gaining a majority, what they’re really saying is the BJP and its allies, which are regional groups that can enact change in their individual states. Britain has its Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, Sein Fein, and Unionist Party that all have seats in London… but only because they dominate their local legislatures. In America, Bernie Sanders is a Socialist senator because Vermont had a Socialist Party organization… it’s now divided into Progressive Party and Liberty Union Party, but Bernie’s been popular enough he can just call himself “independent.”

But in America, the Republicans weren’t there from the beginning–they only arose in 1850–in reaction to the rising anti-slavery movement. Many Northerners were disgusted by the Whig Party’s compromise in the expansion of slavery into the western territories. As a result, the Whigs divided into the new Republican camp, went back to the Democratic camp, or created a new party called Constitutional Union. The Whigs themselves were a compromise of people disgusted by Andrew Jackson’s domination of Democratic politics… which at the time, was the only political party.

When enough of the elected officials decide to break away from their party to form their own, it tends to be effective. Take the Progressive Party in 1912. Theodore Roosevelt, probably our most badass president, broke away from the Republican Party to create his own party because he (and others like him) needed to purify American politics. This involved radical ideas like equitable worker compensation, improved child labor laws, minimum wage legislation, a limited workweek, graduated income tax and allowing women the right to vote. Contrary to what you might believe, modern “progressives” have nothing in common with these pioneers. Minimum wage laws were there to protect white workers against the wave of cheap immigrant labor. Child labor ban meant employers couldn’t scam their regular workers out of jobs. Women’s votes came with the prohibition of alcohol.

In areas where one-party dominates, but doesn’t split off and form another party, candidates are labeled differently. They don’t dare let go of the party title, because only a godless heathen / racist pig would vote for the actual opposition party. In Chicago, it’s Machine Democrats and Reformist Democrats. In national politics, we talk about Progressive Democrats and Old-School Democrats, because Americans won’t vote for a Progressive Party candidate… after all, “they have no chance of winning.”

What happens to the splitters is what happened to the Progressive Party back in 1916… some of their ideas were absorbed in order to get the voters back into the party. For those who didn’t think they went far enough, they joined the Democrats, which is why the Democrats in the 1920’s stopped being the party of big business and became the party of organized labor. The Tea Party Republicans got absorbed into the Old School system. Nowadays, there’s a Liberty Caucus within the GOP that fights against the big business emphasis of the Old School.

So what will happen? The Democrats will absorb some of the progressive’s aims, to keep the wave of college-educated younger voters, but if they absorb too many, they will lose their regular base voters, and have to realign back to the middle. Republicans are starting to become the voice of the working class, but if they focus too much on the Old School views, they’ll lose voters again. So I imagine a massive Democratic loss in the 2022 mid-terms, which will force them back to the middle again.

Personally, I would like a multiple party system–make political parties more ideologically honest–but I don’t hold out much hope. But what do you think? Do you think there’s a chance that either the Dems or GOP will split into a competing parties? Will we keep going to the extremes? Let me know in the comments below! Meanwhile, vote with your paycheck, and buy one of my books. However, if $1.99 is too much of a risk with your vote, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. I’m Marcus Johnston and I approve this message. 😀

“Don’t act surprised, you guys, ’cause I wrote ’em!”

30 Mar

After the mass shootings in the US recently, the gun control debate (briefly) raised its ugly head. However, instead of debating the pros and cons, I was more curious about the language of the 2nd Amendment. More to the point, what did the guy who wrote it have to say?

Quick recap of American History: After the Declaration of Independence, the United States were not… united. The Continental Congress sounds rather impressive in the history books, but it was still a voluntary conference of independent state governments. If Rhode Island’s legislature had decided to declare its undying loyalty to George III, they could have. It wasn’t until March 1st, 1781, five years after war was declared, that the Continental Congress signed its first constitution, the Articles of Confederation. This gave nearly all power to the states. This didn’t work and the cracks in the union were showing. Eight years later, some folks decided to scrap the articles in favor of a new working constitution.

The delegates to the Constitutional Convention were afraid that giving power to a national government would create a tyrannical government just like the one they had spent seven years fighting. After the compromises and debates, the states still had to ratify the Constitution, and the biggest objection to that was that their rights were not enshrined. So one of the things James Madison, one of the major drafters of the Constitution, wrote a Bill of Rights with 12 amendments to ensure those rights were protected. Ten of those were passed, including the Second regarding guns.

Fun fact: one of the unpassed amendments was passed two hundred years later as the 27th Amendment. The other dealt with changing the number of reps per state through mathematical formula, it doesn’t really work in a country of over 300 million.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

2nd Amendment to the Constitution (1791)

A lot of attention is paid to the commas (see what the Supreme Court says about it), opponents talk about the focus on the word “militia,” and how the founders were focused on national defense, not individual gun ownership. But again, I’m not debating what I think about it, but what James Madison thinks about it… the guy who wrote it.

Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it.

“Publius” (Madison’s pseudonym), The Federalist Papers, Number 46

What Jimmy Boy was more concerned about was tyranny–an overpowering national government able to crush all dissent–which you have to admit, is a lot easier if the citizens aren’t armed. Opponents would say that’s not really possible in the modern era; to quote a French officer in WWII, “you can’t fight tanks with rifles.” Madison would agree with you: “And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes.”

But that’s not the point. When the folks want to shake off their yokes, they have the choice. Otherwise, you have to stand in front of tanks and hope the army soldiers are more interested in protecting life than stopping dissent. In 1991, that worked in Russia… and didn’t in China. The difference? Organization. In Russia, Boris Yeltsin was the president of the Russian SSR–the equivalent of a state (the biggest and comprised most of the country, but not the national leader) and refused to back down in the face of the “Gang of Four.” In China, it’s was pro-democracy protesters, and didn’t have the backing of a local or state government. The American Civil War wouldn’t have happened if the states themselves didn’t want to secede, but if they didn’t have the guns in the first place, they wouldn’t have even got started… and history would have been a lot different.

This doesn’t address the issue of daily life and the problems of having the wrong person owning guns, but all ye liberals, consider this. If you aren’t allowed to own a gun, the only guns are in the hands of the police and the military, the same ones you want to defund. The only ones who are authorized to protect you can not be everywhere at every time. Even assuming a criminal can’t get a gun, can you defend yourself against a man who’s ready to kill you for your wallet? As was said of the first revolver manufacturer, “God created men equal. Colonel Colt made them equal.”

But I’m biased… I’m just not adamant about it. What argument did I miss? Did Jimmy have too much faith in the power of militias? (Answer: Yes, he did.) Could Jimmy imagine a world where people had more than single-shot muskets? Was Jimmy too much of a weakling to fight? Let me know in the comments below! And while you’re down there, click on the link for my books and buy one! Not ready to commit to that? Download one of my stories for free!

In Defense of Civil Religion

7 Mar

How we choose to spin things makes all the difference. History, holidays, ceremonies–they’re all part of the academic term “civil religion,” worship of the state. As part of a conscious effort, people are losing their faith in the state, and… is that really a good thing?

There’s an old joke, “Build a man a fire, he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.” The intent is the same, the results… far, far different. Take for example, “Lies My Teacher Told Me” by James W. Loewen, which came out in 1995. It’s a great book, exposing a lot of the falsehoods that have been put into American history books, and showing you the origin of those things. I read that as a history teacher and thought, “Wow–that was really in-depth coverage, I should include some of that in my curriculum.” Other teachers thought, “My students need to know all of it, make THAT the textbook!”

Intent is the same, results much different. When you include these errors as part of your instruction, you teach your students to question and analyze what they read. When you make it the textbook, you teach students to reject everything they’ve learned, and question ANY authority from there on in. People stop believing the “American Dream,” that lovely idea anyone from anywhere can do anything in America, because you’re free to pursue it, with enough hard work and sacrifice. No, that’s not precisely true, but probably more true in America than most countries. In the paragon of socialism, the Scandinavian countries, you don’t see many companies moving there, new exciting innovation–mostly because it’s cold, but probably because you have to jump through a lot more hoops and pay more taxes to work there.

On the other hand, if you’re taught that America is the most racist place on Earth, your world view from there changes, and any information comes through that filter. You ignore that Spaniards throw bananas onto the soccer pitch when a black player comes on the field because, “Well, that’s a sports game,” forgetting the amount of anger we had over taking a knee at a football game here. You ignore the fact that in Rwanda, Hutsis were chopping up Tutsis because, “Well, they’re all black. That’s not racism.”

When Howard Zinn wrote “A People’s History of the United States,” raising up the working class and minorities in American history, he did so at a time when all textbooks were written from the spin of “we need to defend godly America from godless Communism.” So for his initial audience, they grew up with the “our side good, their side bad,” so the revelation that our history is not sunshine and rainbows was eye-opening… but didn’t change their world view. But if you make Zinn’s book your textbook, then you’ve created a citizen who believes that America only exists to oppress them.

And you’re seeing a world that’s lost its faith. Americans don’t believe in God, they believe in science. They don’t believe in the system, they believe in their side. The problem is they don’t realize that the new faith they’ve embraced is just as flawed as the one they left, so you have to ignore the bad news about your side, because to do so would ruin the fundamentalism of your faith.

So embrace inconsistency, but hold onto those traditions that keep us together, those beautiful lies that allow us to achieve things as a nation. Salute the flag, serve the country, believe in the equality of every man… but fight to make sure those beautiful lies actually become truth. Because if all we do is fight for our side, it’s only of matter of time before the other side wins, and all your faith turns out to be misplaced.

Do I need to come off my soapbox? Does “civil religion” cause more harm than good? Is it better to start from airing our dirty laundry first to achieve those beautiful lies? Let me know in the comments below!

A Dragon is Coming For Christmas

19 Dec

I’m happy to announce that my new book, Drag’n Drop, will be coming out next week–right in time for Christmas! If you ever wanted to read an alternate history urban fantasy novel (and who hasn’t), now is your opportunity! 🙂

Okay, now that I’ve piqued your interest, what is it? Imagine an America where magic exists–not openly, but in the shadows there are wizards, orcs, elves, dwarves, fairies… and most importantly, dragons. Now imagine how that would have changed history. Europeans still colonized the continent, but only the coast, because the natives had their own medicine men to fight back. England didn’t conquer New Amsterdam, but instead was repelled. Pushed back against the sea, the colonists were eventually forced to unite together, and formed the multicultural Staats-General von Amerika.

So in the modern day, Caleb, a green dragon who’s been living in New Amsterdam (you’d know it as New York) has seen native invasions come and go, but this time, something’s different. The united tribes have burst through the Cordelyou Line–a massive defense work built along the western border–with a new magic that should be impossible. Now they are threatening to finally destroy the European Settlements once and for all. Threatened with the loss of his home, he gathers his friends–a washed-up wizard and an arcane librarian–to travel across Amerika. His hope: find the source of the natives’ new power, gather an army of magical creatures, and destroy it… before it’s too late.

I’ve had a lot of fun writing it and I hope you enjoy it when it comes out! I’ve got a great cover–which you can see–and it’ll be available at the low, low price of $1.99! Right in time for you to use all those Amazon gift cards you got for Hanukkah. 🙂

Thank Heaven for Large Mercies

26 Nov

One day a year, we’re reminded to give thanks for all the wonderful things that have happened in our life. Although we’re tempted to remember how bad 2020 has been for us, if the Pilgrims could get over their bad times in 1621, so can we.

Imagine you’re living in a comfortable urban life in the Netherlands, you’re free to worship, maintain your own community, but you belong to what we would call today “fundamentalists.” You see your children becoming worldly, (relatively) tolerant Dutchmen, and you know that if you stay, your community will disappear in two generations. You can’t go back home to England, so someone comes up with a solution, and you jump at it.

So you get to an alien shore, and by remarkable providence (in this case, previous plague), the land is open and no one is trying to kill you for it. Here is where you realize, you don’t know how to farm. Or you do know how to farm, but Massachusetts is a completely different horticultural zone, so what you remember from temperate England doesn’t work in snowy, rocky New England. Your crops fail, you don’t know the local plants to scavenge well, but you can fish. No one knows or cares that you there. No one’s coming to rescue you. Odds are, your settlement is going to die off in the next winter.

Then comes Squanto (at least, that’s what you think his name is) to show you how you’re doing it wrong, to show you wild game in the area, and what plants are good to eat. Here is the last survivor of the tribe who’s land you’ve moved into and he does more than what is decent–he helps you survive. Not only that, he convinces the tribe next door to help you out.

So you have a big feast with things that look familiar, but are alien. Maize–it looks like corn, so let’s call it that. Pumpkins. They’re close enough to a gourd that we get the idea. And then this pheasant-like thing we’re calling a turkey. Sitting around the table with these savage-looking people who you can barely understand, but have ensured that you have enough food that you will last until the end of the next growing season. You will live… and that is the greatest thing to give thanks for.

Now, I should mention that “no good deed goes unpunished,” but to be fair, it wasn’t the people at the feast who caused the Pequot War… it was the cousins of those Pilgrims who came in the second wave a year later that decided that the Indians had to go. But instead of going down that rabbit hole, just understand that simple act of thankfulness. Having a feast when you were about to starve to death. Not being able to go to the local bar for a month pales in comparison.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Maybe tomorrow, I should write out what I’m thankful for, but for now, feel free to comment what you like.

If yer not Dutch, yer not much

7 Aug

I grew up in a town that was half Dutch, half not – I was on the half nots. I can say Housinga, Vandermyde, and Reimer properly… because they were my classmates. This rather strange situation led me to a love/hate relationship with all things Dutch. This also created an ethnic solidarity to a past their ancestors wanted to forget.

Between 1880 and 1920, there was a wave of Dutch immigration to Northwest Illinois (and Michigan and probably Minnesota). This took the nearby Catholic town of Fulton, Illinois and turned it completely Dutch. They spoke Dutch, they went to Dutch Reformed churches, their kids mostly hung around other Dutch kids. The story my grandma (born 1937) would tell me is that the Dutch kids wouldn’t be allowed to drink and dance, but they DID seemed to get pregnant a lot.

Now a lot of this is slander, because she also told some degrading stories about Catholics too, but it certainly changed the political and social landscape of these small farming communities. This created a new identity among the new citizens. The picture with the windmill is on the Mississippi River. The people of Fulton bought the “de Immigrant” windmill from the Netherlands and moved it brick by brick to Illinois. There are Dutch Days every summer (well, not this summer) with folks wearing wooden shoes and washing the streets.

The funny thing is that their grandparents and great-grandparents were doing everything in their power to blend in… to become American. They refused to teach their kids Dutch. The strictness of the Dutch Reformed Church weakened over the decades. The last Dutch-language service in my town was in 1972. They went to the local schools, embraced being Americans, and apart from the strange-sounding names, were American by my generation in every sense. Of course, by then, there were other waves of immigrants which shifted them over to “white.”

Of course, I’m not blameless. I’ve got a kilt in my closet and my ancestors left Scotland three hundred years ago. I’ve never been to Scotland. I’ve been to the Netherlands (okay, the airport), but I have as much connection to the Hague than I do to Dumfries. My ancestors may have left thanks to being on the wrong side of a political dispute (Dissenters against the Kirk), but what they really wanted was land to farm. Along the way, we lost the “e” on our name–fought, then married Irish–and kept moving to have their kids get their own farm.

Maybe we’re all looking back to a history that doesn’t exist? Thanks to a note in my family history, I thought I was 1/256th Cherokee for decades. (Turns out, I’m not… not even close.) Are you proud of dubious connection to the past? How much is your identity tied up in your ancestry? Let me know in the comments below!

You say you want a revolution?

28 Jun

When I was bored with my current library, I decided to turn to the authors in The Royal Manticoran Navy and found this interesting story from Leo Champion, an indie author from Australia.

Our hero is a kid named Jake Linder, who leaves an overly regulated, rich, and boring Earth to seek his fortune in the stars. Instead, he gets hijacked by pirates and sold into slavery on the backwater world of Verana. One day, as he’s on a suicidal work detail, he decides he’s had enough to blindly following orders, and fights to live as a free man.

The next thing he knows, he’s started the Veranian Revolution, an entire planet rising against an empire. Jake becomes not just a soldier but a hero. He gets caught up in a galaxy-spanning conspiracy. He finds the love of his life, and lose her! It’s a wild, interesting ride!

Champion does a great job of balancing two main plotlines and a couple minor ones, so that you get Jake’s perspective on the front lines (with some really good, gritty but not depressing war realism), Damien’s perspective as the leader of the independence movement (so you get the cool diplomacy and problems of political struggle), and you get the minor plotlines that cover conspiracies, backstabs, space combat, and all the things that you want in a space opera.

This book happens to hit me where I’m itching because of the other book I’m reading…

That’s right, I’m double-fisting my books reading two books at the same time. I’m a madman! 🙂 What happened is that my son is really into Hamilton: The Musical. (Which is like saying a fish is really into water.) So when I went over to a friend’s house and he had it on his bookshelf, I asked to borrow it. Really amazing detail about the American Revolution, our early government, and the political backstabbing and nasty press that reminds me that plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. (That means I’m pretentious.)

So if you’re into Sci-fi, especially Military Sci-fi, check out Leo Champion and his other works! If you’re into American History, check out Ron Chernow… although he doesn’t need as much press, so go to Leo’s page first! 🙂

Now what do you think? What’s the biggest obstacle to revolutionary success? Write a comment below!

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