This latest series of letters were supposed to focus on the antics of the 112th Congress. We keep getting sidetracked. Sorry.
The problem is that we are not yet sufficiently grounded in history or political theory to evaluate any legislative goings-on let alone appreciate the little whimsies that brighten an otherwise drab reporting of the news. Okay, I’m not sufficiently grounded. We’ll just have to learn by doing. Sidetracked is to be expected.
There are a couple simple theories of history; linear and cyclical. The linear theorists are mostly Western and hold that history operates on a more or less straight line that is not necessarily self-referential. Christians, among others, claim a teleological or natural purpose and finality to history. We are, however, obliged to countenance whatever it is we get.
Then there’s the cyclical view: Events are points along the circumference of a wheel that repeat each time that point works its way ‘round. This is more of an Eastern idea and, to our minds, contemplates a miserable condition. Oh boy, here we go again. War, pestilence, famine, death; each visited upon us in turn forever.
But why can’t history be a curvilinear, meandering and raucous stream that is neither predictable nor headed any place in particular. It just can’t because I said so and it fits not-at-all into the premise of this piece.
Others subscribe to the Pan Theory. However it pans out is fine.
Let me propose the Importuned Grudge Theory.
History is full of grudges; unscratched itches that fester for generations or centuries that demand some resolution for the grudge holder. Never mind that cynical politicians or divines, from time to time poke at these cankers for their own purposes. Whatever the mechanism, it happens. And, when it happens, we have a doozey of an historical event.
Islamic jihadists are still mad about the Crusades and being tossed from Europe. Hitler was miffed at the WWI settlement terms. The Chechens still harbor hard feelings about Josef Stalin. Native Americans figure they were wronged. Democrats were paid back for Nixon’s fall by demonizing Clinton. Democrats, in their turn, painted Bush as a feckless moron. It was Robert F. Kennedy who said, “Don’t get mad. Get even.”
Cue the Koreans. Sixty years ago in mid September, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur pulled off a stunning amphibious landing at Inchon on Korea’s west coast, cut off the North’s supply of Seoul and denied them a unified Stalinist peninsula. Sixty years ago to the week, MacArthur was about to defeat the North militarily. He had subdued Pyongyang, The North’s capitol and was about to occupy the countryside.
He didn’t see the Chinese Peoples Volunteer Army 300,000 strong under the command of Peng Duhuai hidden in the bushes in places called Kunu-ri Pass, Ch'ongch'on River and Chosin Reservoir. One US regiment was decimated; the other prevailed but was cut up so badly that American troops had to fight their way to the south where they are to this day. And, to this day, Pyongyang is still riled about their thwarted unification plans. They celebrated the anniversary this year by taking umbrage at the thinnest of provocations and set the potential for some more bloody history.
That may another way of saying that it’s not enough just to prevail. The brilliance of the First Amendment to the Constitution was not only to restrain the government’s power over religion, speech, press and assembly but the often overlooked right to petition for the redress of grievances. It’s the redress part that should interest us here. People want their grievances remedied, as in put right or rectified. Grievances un-redressed, as we have seen, are grudges. Grudges never go away. Redressing grievances is hard for the winner who gets to write history – so hard, it almost never gets done. So don’t ask me how.
I’m just sayin’,