The world changes in the blink of an eye. In the 21st century, we have the luxury of visiting scenes from history in books, film, and documents, with the safety and conveniences of modern life. Join me to examine the lives of our ancestors, imagine their experiences, and connect with their struggles and triumphs.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Paris Bombing & Learning from History

The Bomb-Thrower to Die.
Paris, Jan. 19.
Auguste Vaillant, the Anarchist, who threw a bomb in the Chamber of Deputies on December 9, by the explosion of which eighty persons were injured, was convicted and sentenced to death to-day. When the sentence was pronounced Vaillant shouted: “Vive l’Anarchie!”
New-York Weekly Tribune
January 17, 1894

"The government's reaction to this attack was the passing of the infamous repressive Lois scélérates.... He threw the home-made device from the public gallery and was immediately arrested. The weakness of the device meant that the explosion only caused slight injuries to twenty deputies.... Valliant claimed that his aim was not to kill but to wound as many deputies as possible in revenge for the execution of Ravachol [a fellow anarchist.]"
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auguste_Vaillant

***Note the discrepancy between damage/injury reports. The media is no closer to the truth than it was 120 years ago.


The Execution of Vaillant.
Image courtesy of http://www.ephemanar.net/fevrier05.html


History offers lessons, but so rarely do we learn.

Sadly, there have always been those who deem violence an appropriate tool to prompt change, demand vengeance, and strike terror into enemies. They take aim at their oppressors--real or imagined--and pay little heed to any collateral damage (or worse, relish it.)

Just as unfortunate, if more understandable, are the knee-jerk reactions that usher in fear and hatred, legislation and discrimination. Instead of measured precautions, we bypass common sense and compassion in favor of judgment and refusal of succor. We respond to pain, our grief still raw, just as the attackers hope, with prejudicial slash-and-burn anger that lands on all but those who earned it. We congratulate ourselves for swift justice while giving lip service to charity, but the price of the latter is always too steep. The veneer of security trumps humanity.

The persecution of innocents doesn't throttle danger; it feeds it. We let the terrorists win by meeting their expectations.


While we give thanks this year, remember those who have no home, no family, and no hope.  Compassion costs little for those fortunate enough to spend a day feasting with family before running out to pile gluttony into shopping carts in a race to beat the Joneses. Sharing our bounty won't make us poor, nor will it make us less safe. It will simply show that we've learned from history.
 


 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Celebrating Women Writers: Hannah Moore

In an effort to bring more attention to oft-neglected women authors, I will include some excerpts of the few books from them I have in my collection. Most can be found on online in their entirety or purchased as reprints/ebooks.


Today's is from The Golden Legacy: A Story of Life’s Phases by Mrs. H. J. Moore (aka More)
1860
Sheldon and Company, New-York




This excerpt speaks in wonderful imagery and evokes great emotion. While Mrs. Moore was a bit verbose, as was the style of the time, she crafted a beautiful scene with a lyrical quality I find enjoyable.


 


Chapter I.
 

“Who solves the deep, dark mysteries that shroud

The low abodes of wretchedness and want,

Unlocks the portals of the human heart,

Bringing light to gems that lie deep buried

In immeasurable woe.”
 

Warm and loving was the sun’s bright glance, as it beamed through the aperture which served for a window, in the miserable hovel old Paul Brown called his home. In strange contrast with those glad, joyous beams, dancing so merrily in through every crevice, was this wretched abode of penury and want. Hunger, cold, and consuming disease, held undisputed sway within the comfortless walls. Nought was there to stay the hand of the destroyer, as he stealthily crept toward the old man’s couch. Couch, did I say? If a wisp of straw, scattered sparingly over a few rough boards, and covered with such rags as had been gleaned from the streets and by-ways, with only a larger bunch of them for a pillow, could be dignified by such a name, then was Paul Brown’s resting-place a couch; for thus had his aged limbs, feeble and worn with care and sorrow, found their only repose. None knew how long he had been an occupant of the hitherto deserted hut, nor whence he came. His very existence would have been unnoticed, save that each morning a ragged, dirty, half-famished looking boy knocked gently at many of the doors in the village near by, and in plaintive tones asked “somethin’ for gran’ther to eat.” Thus had they lived for many a weary month—the old man and boy; and thus, perhaps, they might have lived on still as many more, had not the feeble flickering of life’s lamp given warning, that soon all sorrow and want would find an eternal rest.

Still, the bright sun, unmindful of all save its own life-giving mission, bathed those palsied limbs in its radiant warmth, as lovingly as a few moments later it kissed the rosy mouth, and sparkled in the golden curls of the rich squire’s youngest treasure.

The old man roused from his deep sleep at the genial touch, and, half awaking, thought some angel’s wing had fanned his brow, so sweet had been his sleeping fancies. But, alas! in dreams only can suffering want like his find forgetfulness. One glance at the uncovered rafters above, the bare walls around, untouched save by the hand of time, and his illusion vanished. Feebly raising his head, supported by a skeleton hand, he looked anxiously toward the opposite corner, and in tones of piteous weakness cried,

“Lonny, Lonny boy, why don’t you wake up? I’m a’most froze, and starved too.”

What had before seemed but a bundle of rags, stowed carelessly into the corner, began to exhibit signs of animation, and gradually, as though loth to leave even such a bed, the small form of a boy emerged from the loathsome place. He had scarce numbered ten summers, and yet his face wore a look of care and anxiety, befitting one of mature years. Covered with rags and filth, his long, uncombed hair of reddish hue falling unheeded about his face and neck, he was a pitiably revolting object. And yet, none who knew how his young shoulders had borne their heavy burden, or how the springs of love and hope, ever gushing through childhood’s heart, had been dried within him, could have looked upon him without interest. One Eye alone had seen his utter misery, and though he knew it not, an unseen hand was even now guiding him through bitter trials, to a bright hereafter. All that poor Lonny knew, or felt on this cold, frosty morning, as he so reluctantly roused himself from his blessed oblivion to care, was that, somehow or other, he must make a fire to warm “poor gran’ther,” and then go forth, faint with hunger as he was, to his daily morning task of begging. The gleam of sunshine, which still rested so kindly on the old man’s form, seemed to infuse some of its cheerfulness into the boy, for he quickly slipped his feet into a pair of cast-off shoes he had picked up the day before, and tying them on with a strip of coarse cloth, thus completed his toilet.