Friday, March 22, 2013

An introspection

It’s edging closer to San Jacinto Day and as a proud multigenerational Texan, I feel the need to boast a bit. When you’re from Texas you’re automatically licensed to do so when speaking of The Lone Star State as well as in regard to your ancestors and what role they provided in wise decisions and right actions towards your Texas allegiance. Consequently, I choose to speak about a couple of books along those lines that affect my thought processes and pride of lineage.

One is “Born Fighting” written by former Senator Jim Webb, who details a great appreciation of deeply held opinions and beliefs as well as attitudes towards authority found in the Scots-Irish peoples who ultimately populated a great portion of the American Heartland, the South in particular. Webb goes in great detail to examine and explain how a Scots-Irish heritage was foundational within the leaders of the early days of our country’s birth and growth. One of my ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War, his sword is in a DAR Museum. Another part of the family lost two sons in the War of Northern Aggression and my Great-Great-Grandmother drew Confederate Veterans Widow’s Pension on the service of my G.G.Grandfather (a Second Lieutenant – 8th Mississippi Calvary).

Much the same as certain animals have inbred traits towards retrieving, working cattle, defense of home and hearth, etc., so does Webb explain the Scots-Irish traits and beliefs in personal liberty and freedom. Going back close to 2000 years he traces the development of the Scots-Irish peoples, how they came to assume and rely on their clannish pride, their belief that authority and leadership was a bottom up structure pointing towards a common goal always accompanied by a fierce streak of independence. They were rednecks and long fought the good fight towards a communal good; to a greater extent than most other European cultures which have all founded this great land. The Battle of the Alamo was peopled by many Scots-Irish. My one life’s regret is that although I’m eligible for Sons of the Revolution and Sons of Confederate Veterans, I can’t make Sons of the Republic of Texas. And, that’s the only one I truly want.

The other book is “Blood of Heroes” by James Donovan and in it he proffers the following:
“Little more than five decades after Americans had secured their freedom, the word ‘Liberty’ remained far more than an abstract term, a right taken for granted. Liberty or death, as Patrick Henry put it, represented the American stand on the subject, and in 1836, the cost of freedom paid for with human lives was still vivid in the mind of every citizen and the memory of many. The word represented one of the basic rights every man was entitled to by birth. And the rebels believed passionately, just as Thomas Jefferson had written in the Declaration of Independence, that legitimate political authority rested on the consent of the governed, who retained the right to withdraw their consent and change their government if it threatened those inalienable rights it was formed to protect. As Texians saw it that was exactly what Santa Anna was in the process of doing.
Linked to this new concept of liberty, this idea of truly freemen, and essential to its core, was landownership. Its importance went beyond the desire for riches, or large-scale exploitation of resources in the pursuit of progress. Suffrage, the right to vote and elect representatives, the most important component of a republic, was even in the United States initially confined to property owners; land meant power. While the requirement had gradually been eliminated in all but a few states, the mindset remained. Too, it was a time, a world, an existence, based on an agrarian way of life – eight of ten men worked the land. To own land in 1836 was viewed by all as an essential condition of liberty. A man without land was nobody.
Eight of the Alamo’s defenders were Tejanos who had bravely decided to join the colonists in their rebellion – they too, were outraged by Santa Anna’s actions. But like the great majority of Americans at this time, the rest were of Anglo-Saxon stock. Most of the men in the fort were Scots-Irish whose Scottish ancestors had fought for their freedom from the British at Stirling and Bannockburn, and they fought the Irish at the same time they were marrying and breeding with their women. A dozen or so were Englishmen whose forefathers had defeated the French at Agincourt and Crecy, and beheaded their own king for aspiring to tyranny. And for those who were American born, 1776 was no such distant memory; there were veterans of that struggle still living. At least fifty of the defenders proudly claimed fathers or grandfathers who had participated in the Revolutionary War. No, whatever else, these men would back down from no one.
. . .
Almost all the men from the southern states claimed Scotland and Ireland as their hereditary birthplaces, many of them only one or two generations removed from the old countries. Journeying west – for freedom, for land, was in their blood. And they were fighters. Fighting for these things, and other, sometimes lesser things too – family, honor, justice or even sport – was also in their blood. Truth to tell, some of the men had walked or ridden hundreds of miles just for a good fight.
Most of them were not trained soldiers. Save for the New Orleans Greys, they wore no uniforms, and their arms were their own, a mixture of muskets, rifles, shotguns, pistols, tomahawks, and blades. In most every respect they did not meet the definition of an army. But in a letter to Sam Houston, Green Jameson had summed up their most important quality. ‘They have all been tried, and have confidence in themselves’.”
The Blood of Heroes (pp. 252-254)
My Celtic heritage is strong. Part of my ancestry is Scots-Irish mixed with a greater portion of Germanic descent for good measure. As such, I strongly identify with the ethos of the men described in both these books. Guess that’s why I’m such an independent old cuss.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Flameout, Flameout. EJECT, EJECT, EJECT!!!

On the way to Worship Service yesterday, wife & I were conversing about, of all things, movies – in particular the Bruce Willis series “Die Hard” and the Mel Gibson series “Lethal Weapon”. We could remember Bruce Willis and “Die Hard’ as well as Mel Gibson and all the co-stars in his series, but for several minutes the name of his films escaped us both. It did finally come to mind.

Which brings me to my point. I’ve long said: “I could be the richest man on earth if I could figure out a way to ‘defrag’ the human brain.” In that conversation wife mentioned that many of the younger teachers and associates at her school presented the same memory problems that we experience, at our advancing age. I don’t believe I’m suffering Alzheimer’s or dementia but it causes me some concern from time to time that I can’t pull up something I know I should be able to. She led me outside myself to the thought it’s a more widespread problem within society at large than I’d previously considered.

Which brought me to the concern: “With the plethora of data at our fingertips and our constant desire for stimulation; we, as a society, could well be suffering from information overload.” Not necessarily a good thing, IMHO. Is it possible the “Law of Unintended Consequences” is presenting our and future generations with information overload while we are failing to develop adequate abilities to deal with all that data. Or, in other words, are we losing our abilities towards rational decision making as a result of too much input for our processor to handle?

Inquiring minds want to know.