Around the planet, today commemorates an Anniversary of the Abolition of Slavery in Mauritius, National Day in Mexico, and the start of Winter Carnival—a seventeen day affair—in Quebec, while in the United States February 1st initiates Black History Month at the same time that it marks, go figure, the beginning of National Birdfeeding Month as well; in Northern Africa a thousand, five hundred and thirty-six years ago, a Vandal King facilitated a conference that included Catholic and Arian bishops in Carthage; two years less than eight and a half centuries later, in 1329, a Bohemian king overthrew a pagan fortress in Lithuania and baptized some six thousand of its defenders; more or less exactly three hundred thirty-three years thereafter, in 1662, a half Japanese/half Chinese pirate, a Ming Loyalist against both the Manchus and the creeping incursions of Europe, led the forces that gained definitive control of the island of Taiwan, or Formosa; just a tad more than half a century onward, in 1713, the Swedish King who had fled the Czar’s victorious forces and had been a ‘guest’ of the Ottomans in their mutual antagonisms against Russia, faced restive hosts, who seized him in order to limit his scheming on various fronts; precisely one hundred twenty-two years henceforth, in 1835, roughly four thousand miles South in Mauritius, rulers there decreed an end to slavery; one hundred seventy years prior to today, the first member of the benighted Donner Party perished from exposure; four years afterward, in 1851, the great writer and thinker Mary Shelley died in England; another decade in the direction of now, in 1861, across the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, Texas seceded from the United States so as to preserve slavery; ten hundred ninety five days afterward, in 1864, union activism in Troy, New York increased
laundress wages from an average of only two dollars a week to that much or more each day of labor; a year past that conjunction, in 1865, Abraham Lincoln signed the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, outlawing slavery or forced labor by any name, except for anyone unfortunate enough to face a criminal conviction; two years hence, in 1867, unionized bricklayers first won the eight hour day; a trumped-up murder conviction nine years in the future, in 1876, eliminated the viability of the Molly Maguire protesters in the Pennsylvania coal fields; eight years hence on the dot, in 1884, its publishers issued the first volume, A to Ant, of the Oxford English Dictionary; a farther seven years along time’s arc, in 1893, Thomas Edison oversaw the opening of Black Maria, the world’s first film production studio; another nine years subsequent to that juncture, in 1902, a baby boy yelled out who would come of age as the magnificent poet and thinker, Langston Hughes; seven hundred thirty days further along, in 1904, a different male child opened his eyes who would rise as the humorist and biting wit, S.J. Perelman, and the writer and political intellectual Bozorg Alavi was born; eight years forward in time, in 1912, across the North American continent in San Diego, the International Workers of the World’s free speech was a pitched battle on a daily basis, with civil disobedients’ filling the jails every day; back on the other side of the continent, a year later on, in 1913, over 25,000 textile workers went on strike in Patterson, New Jersey for the eight hour day and better working conditions; nine years later, in 1922, a terrible murder happened in Hollywood when the body of film director William Desmond Taylor in his Los Angeles bungalow;
two years past that point in time, in 1924, across the wide Atlantic, England recognized the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; a decade and a half nearer to now, in 1939, a baby male was born whose destiny was to grow up as physicist and thinker and interlocutor of the cosmos, Fritjof Capra; three years more down the temporal trail, in 1942, the United States first began broadcasting over the Voice of America network, providing news and propaganda in Axis countries; fifty-seven years back, four African-American students from Greensboro, North Carolina ignited a new phase of civil rights protests by sitting down and staying at a segregated lunch counter in their city; four years still more proximate to the present pass, in 1964, the Beatles first number one hit was on the air in the United States; an additional seven hundred and thirty-one days in the direction of the here and now, in 1966, the performer and writer Hedda Hopper breathed her last, and the iconic actor and screenwriter Buster Keaton also died; another two years subsequently, in 1968, half a world away in Vietnam, the country’s National Police Chief publicly blew out a suspect’s brains in front of television cameras and ignited a vast upsurge in protest against the war; two years later, in 1970, the Napalm Litigation commenced; six years on the nose after that, in 1976, the mathematician and philosopher Werner Heisenberg most certainly lived out his final day; two additional years closer to the current context, in 1978, Roman Polanski jumped bail and fled to France after he had pled guilty to having sex with a thirteen year old girl whose mother had acted as procuress; three hundred sixty-five days still later, in 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini left France and returned to Iran; a year past that point in time, in 1980, the FBI’s ASCAM operation was revealed; twelve more years along the stream of time, in 1992, nearly half a world away in India, a district chief magistrate declared ex-head of Union Carbide a fugitive from Indian justice for the latter’s refusal to appear in relation to the carnage that U.C. caused in the Bhopal leak;
two years hence, in 1994, back around the globe again, Green Day released its Dookie album, which went on to sell twenty million copies; another seven hundred thirty days after that, in 1996, the United States passed the so-called Communications Decency Act; six years yet more proximate to now, in 2002, kidnappers beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan; a mere year afterward, in 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia came to pieces as it entered Earth’s atmosphere, incinerating the seven crew members aboard; nine years further along time’s path, in 2012, Nobel Literary laureate Wislawa Szymborska lived our her final scene; another two years henceforth, in 2014, actor and screenwriter Maximilian Schell took his final breath.