History To Our Doorstep: 1990s and Since

7 Score and 17 Years ago…

America beheld a landscape of destruction.
Charleston, S.C. 1865

On September 11, 2001…

… Americans beheld a new landscape of destruction.

Conjured from the mythic landscape…
… a familiar “frontier” hero character.

“The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We’ve removed an ally of al Qaeda, and cut off a source of terrorist funding. And this much is certain: No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the regime is no more.” — President George W. Bush, “Mission Accomplished” speech, May, 2003, aboard the USS Lincoln

Just as another East Coast Ivy League politician from America’s past…

… wore the costume of the cowboy-as-warrior
Theodore Roosevelt in Cuba, 1898, the “rough rider”

In the Gettysburg Address Lincoln declared that America would have “a new birth of freedom.”

Attorney David Boies argues before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on a case involving California’s gay marriage ban Monday, December 6, 2010.
And we still debate what freedom means and who gets it.

Protestors object to a Florida bill passed in 2022 to limit what educators can say about gender and sexuality.

A nation of immigrants…
… that doesn’t like immigrants?

Our landscapes of immigration…

“You have people come in and I’m not just saying Mexicans, I’m talking about people that are from all over, that are killers and rapists and they’re coming to this country,” Donald Trump, CNN June 2015.
“PHOENIX — Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signed the nation’s toughest bill on illegal immigration into law on Friday. Its aim is to identify, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants.
… still inspire debates over who Americans are, who we say we are, and who we should be.

Though walls have never stopped…
…global travelers belonging to the family viridae

“Pandemic”
Residents of Sacramento during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 (above) and the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020.

From steel to silicon….
Our landscapes of production have been transformed.

386,000 high tech jobs spread throughout the Bay Area

… and the captains of industry still reign.

From Andrew Carnegie and steel to Elon Musk with electric cars & rockets

… and our fascination with technology still inspires.

(left) Alexander Graham Bell demonstrates the prototype telephone, 1876; (below) Steve Jobs presents the Apple iPhone.

Technology gives us a mirror…

1893, a kid watching a 40 second film through the peephole of a Kinetoscope.
2020, kids watching a 15 second video using the TikTok app

…And We. Can’t. Stop. Watching.

We remain fascinated by sports and celebrity…

…and the markets they create.

… and captivated by “reality”

… even if it is staged and unreal.

Women’s voices still challenge the status quo…

“This is why a middle ground approach to our climate crisis is unacceptable….You’re either fighting for our future or you’re not.” – Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez
“No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.”- Margaret Sanger

And patriarchy is still a target…

Women march for voting rights in 1913 (above) and for solidarity at the Women’s March 2017 (right)

… as is police violence against Black bodies…
… in a country that promises equality, liberty, and justice for all.

Left: Alabama state troopers beat unarmed protestors in Selma, 1965; Middle: Minneapolis police Derek Chauvin kills unarmed resident George Floyd; Below: memorial mural for George Floyd.

And what we are taught as kids…
… about the Constitution and how checks and balances are supposed to work?

1873 Colfax Massacre saw ex-Confederates banded together as a paramilitary ‘militia’ marched on the court house and killed over a hundred Black residents of Colfax, Louisiana for lawfully practicing their Constitutional rights.
On Wednesday, January 6, 2021 a crowd of self-styled patriots and militia members stormed the nation’s capitol building and attempted to prevent the certification of a lawful election.

In other words, America remains just as complicated, violent, contrary, and confounding as ever…

“I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at For Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.” — Barack Obama, Philadelphia, March 18, 2008
… an unfinished story.

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