Monday, May 29, 2017

Inadequacies of Remembrance, and That Which Remains

On May 29, 1865, President Andrew Johnson re-issued a Lincoln-era amnesty proclamation to former Confederates - with particular exceptions for those ineligible - taking an oath to defend the Constitution and disavow slavery. A month earlier, the United States (“Union”) had prevailed over the seceding Confederate States of America (C.S.A.) by defeating it in its infancy. By most standards, that should have been the end of it. On the contrary, it was the beginning of an even more protracted clash. A struggle to reconcile a tumultuous past with an enlightened present, in order to solidify an equitable future and a more unified society. Currently, the U.S. is in the midst of addressing those issues over the symbols of and monuments to the defeated Confederacy.

There are few instances in history when the eventual losers of a conflict have been commemorated and memorialized. Undeniably, examples do exist of lost battles and those who fought them immortalized throughout the centuries, nothing less than a testament to the sacrifice that ultimately led to victory for their cause. Yet, for every Thermopylae or Alamo remembered, countless events that presaged only defeat and obscurity for its participants rather than continued reverence have gone unacknowledged by history. In numerous cultures, victors oftentimes completely erased vanquished enemies from the historical record. For the most part, this was an effort to secure their own place in history at the beginning of their reign - until time came for a similar fate to befall them as well.

On the one hand, it is understandable that certain Americans wish to honor their Confederate forebears. After all, those who fought for the Confederacy were Americans too, who believed states’ rights increasingly were being unconstitutionally encroached upon by an exceedingly overreaching federal government. Given current domestic affairs, an idea that sounds distinctly familiar in more recent times. Despite what revisionists wish to disseminate, this is, and always will be, the primary impetus that sparked the American Civil War. Of course, it is more complicated than that because the issue over states’ rights is directly tied to the agrarian-based economy of the Southern states and, especially, the heinous institution of slavery. As the war progressed, preserving the Union and abolishing the latter became synonymous.

On the other hand, the Confederacy lost. Thus, it should be placed upon the same ash heap of history as any other conquered movement. In the end, remember the history - both positive and negative - but ban the symbols and dismantle the monuments. While one hopes that the same will never be said of the United States, a day may come when it too finds itself on a similar precipice. After all, every triumphant civilization - from the Egyptians to the British - has had to consider such prospects as their influence and power waned in their own respective times of dominion. For as apocryphally foretold, all glory is fleeting - particularly in the attempt to maintain it beyond its expiration date.

What might be commemorated and memorialized by those who come after when, and if, that pinnacle is reached, and what will be forgotten? Will anyone remember, should anyone maintain the memory?

©2017 Steve Sagarra

Monday, May 15, 2017

Man-Made Mess Conflates Climate Change

There needs to be, or better yet circumstances absolutely implore, a complete re-evaluation and, ultimately, overhaul to levee systems that directly have caused flooding throughout the United States. This is particularly true for the Midwest. Over the last few years alone, there have been two 100-year floods in the St. Louis metropolitan area due to blockage of the creeks, rivers and streams natural flood plains that has unintentionally created artificial ones in both inhabited rural and developed urban areas. Each passing year, over the last several decades, it seemingly gets worse, the situation beyond ridiculous.

My own neighborhood offers a trifling small-scale, and albeit less destructive, example of the grander problem at-large. For many years, my patio was a semi-secluded refuge for barbecue, bourbon and brooding. A few years ago, they decided to develop the feral pond and woodlands behind it into something more upscale. Complete with a fountain, quarried rocks and a variety of small bushes encircling it, it is still a charming, although quite different, enclave. Yet, the innate ambiance is gone, and it is no longer a fixture for those, like me, who preferred the reclusive privacy. Fortunately, the abundant wildlife adapted to and rebounded from the changes after a brief period of time, highlighting the ability of nature to always find a way.

(Disclaimer: For illustrative purposes only; this is not my backyard)

However, storms and winds, even the most calm, no longer are buttressed and stifled by the trees…because they removed most of them. The pond itself, even in the least severe rain, now regularly floods…because no longer are there enough trees to naturally siphon the overflow. The rocks, so precisely placed, are washed over by the rising tide…because they failed to study the average water level before and after it rains to properly place them. All they had to do was ask, but they didn’t bother to consult me during the installation. Thus, typically after every heavy rain, along comes the grounds crew to pump water from the pond to uncover the rocks, rather than actually fixing the problem by adjusting them so that they don’t get flooded in the first place.

Occasionally, one must tear it all down in order to rebuild; beyond the aforementioned, and obvious, environmental concerns, this is true with numerous circumstances. This is neither irreversible natural or human-influenced climate change. With proper foresight, effort and leadership, this is quite reversible. Otherwise, nature yet again will shame humanity’s vain ego, and exhausted questions will arise anew concerning futile measures meant to prevent its unforgiving backlash.

©2017 Steve Sagarra