Today is the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought; in the relatively youthful days of thirteenth century Paris seven hundred seventy-two years ago, authorities in the French capital followed the directives of bigoted prelates and incinerated two dozen carriage loads of hand-written Jewish and Talmudic manuscripts; in the Balkans two hundred eighteen years thereafter, in 1462, the third Vlad, an impaler who in some ways modeled Dracula, led an attempt to assassinate Ottoman functionary, Mehmed the Second, forcing his retreat from the Wallachian highlands; a hundred and seventeen years subsequently, in 1579, seven thousand miles away, in what is now California, Francis Drake led an expedition that claimed ‘New Albion’ for England; fifty-two years hence, in 1631, one of the world’s most striking examples of marital love began to unfold with the death of Mumtaz Mahal in childbirth, and the 17-year construction of the Taj Mahal thereafter; an additional forty-two years in the direction of now, in 1673, two French explorers became the first geographers and explorers to begin the process of making a detailed account of the Mississippi river’s course; forty-six years closer to now, in 1719, back across the Atlantic in England, noted poet, essayist, and playwright Joseph Addison breathed his last; seventy years after that point, in 1789, across the English Channel in a now Revolutionary France, the Third Estate asserted its preeminence in the French National Assembly; a simple half dozen years forward from that, six thousand miles or so South in 1795, the Dutch interlopers in the Boer town of Swellendam
temporarily declared themselves a republic, independent of the Dutch East India Company, to protect their ‘rights’ to the land that they’d expropriated from Africans; forty-four years further down the pike, in 1839, indigenous authorities in the Hawaiian Islands, issued a proclamation that Roman Catholic worship was acceptable; meanwhile, a thousand four hundred and sixty-one days beyond that instant, thousands of miles East in 1845, a Maori uprising in New Zealand represented the first significant rebellion against Britain’s overlordship; one hundred forty-four years before the here and now, a baby boy was born who would rise as the writer and civil rights leader, James Weldon Johnson;seven hundred thirty-one days more along time’s inexorable march, in 1873, the irrepressible and courageous Susan B. Anthony went on trial for the crime of trying to cast a vote in a Presidential election; three additional years past that point, in 1876, Sioux and Cheyenne fighters under the leadership of Crazy Horse held off invading U.S. cavalry at the Battle of the Rosebud in the Montana Territory; exactly three hundred sixty-five days later, in 1877, a few hundred miles away in Idaho Territory, Nez Perce forces routed U.S. Cavalry at the Battle of White Bird Canyon;eight years henceforth, in 1885, at the far Eastern end of North America, the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York Harbor; one hundred eighteen years back, a male infant entered the world in the Escher family who would mature as the monumental graphic artist and illustrator, M.C. Escher; two years further along time’s path, in 1900, half a world away in China, Japanese and European troops captured Taku fortresses that Boxer Rebellion forces had used to attack imperialist populations in and around Tianjin; a brief year subsequent to that precise point, in 1901, the College Board inaugurated the testing program for university admissions that would soon enough lead to the S.A.T.; two years yet nearer to now, in 1903, Mary Harris(Mother) Jones led an undetermined march of tens of thousands of workers, including children, to protest the grinding conditions that young people faced in work places; a decade still later, in 1913, unionized workers at the Studebaker automobile plants in Detroit went on a strike that first initiated the tactic of sitting down in place and refusing to move, a ‘sit-down strike;’ three hundred sixty-five days farther down the road, in 1914, a male infant came along whose fate, as John Hersey, would include writing such iconic works as Hiroshima; eight years nearer still to now, in 1922, a baby boy entered our midst in a bourgeois banking and writing milieu en route to his life as the journalist, critic, and thinker, John Amis; a further eight years precisely beyond that point, in 1930,the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act took effect, with disastrous consequences, under the signature of President Herbert Hoover; two years more proximate to the present, in 1932, also in the District of Columbia, an offshoot of that economic dissolution unfolded as at least a thousand Bonus Army veterans gathered in front of Congress to demand relief in the form of promised-World-War-One-service stipends; another year later on, in 1933,a thousand miles West or so in Kansas City, an infamous Union Station Massacre took place as criminal collaborators of escaped, and recently recaptured, bank-robber Frank Nash shot several police officers and the man that they intended to liberate dead with machine guns in the train depot’s parking lot; three years more along the temporal arc, in 1936, many aspects of the Steelworkers Organizing Committee first began formal operation; another thousand ninety-five days onward from that, in 1939, across the Atlantic in France, the government conducted its final public beheading on the Guillotine; five years after on the dot, in 1944, Iceland gained its independence from Denmark; seven years hence exactly, in 1951, a baby girl came into the world in standard fashion, destined to mature as ecofeminist and environmental activist Starhawk, while in New Jersey a male child gave an initial chuckle on his way to life as the comedian, writer, and performer, Joe Piscopo; two more years further on, in 1953, an workers in East Berlin rose up with such ferocity that Soviets dispatched a division to quell the outburst of protest and violence; a half decade even closer to the current context, in 1958, just short of sixty workers died in a horrific construction accident in British Columbia when a bridge collapsed, killing fifty-nine wage-earners immediately and injuring many more; two years still nearer to the here-and-now, in 1960,the Nez Perce tribe received a four million dollar award for seven million acres that the U.S. had more or less ‘stolen’ a century before for a few cents an acre; three years more along time’s path, in 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court decreed in Abingdon School District v. Schempp that required-religious-readings and recitations in public schools were unconstitutional violations of separation of church and state; halfway round the globe four years afterward, in 1967, the Chinese government detonated the communist nation’s first thermonuclear weapon; a further four years down the pike, in 1971, Richard Nixon declared ‘War on Drugs,’ one of history’s
lengthiest and most perfidious frauds; another year yet more proximate to the here and now, in 1972, five arrests took place of White House staff and other operatives of the Republican National Committee in the first criminal actions of the Watergate scandal; almost, but not quite, two decades more down time’s road, in 1991, South Africa rescinded the Population Registration Act, the ‘racial classifications’ of which provided the legal basis for Apartheid; a mere year further along time’s meandering way, in 1992, Boris Yeltsin and George Bush signed a Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, a so-called START-II, that the United States would abrogate a little more than ten years thereafter; two years past that conjunction, in 1994, several thousand miles to the West, Los Angeles police arrested O.J. Simpson on suspicion of murder, following one of history’s most bizarre, and low-speed, car chases; across the continentseven hundred thirty-one days afterward, in 1996, the brilliant and provocative historian and philosopher-of-science, Thomas Kuhn, spent his final living day among us; fifteen years after that instant, in 2011, the victim of police brutality, Rodney King, died at the relatively youthful age of forty-seven; four additional years en route to today, in 1915, a young terrorist White Supremacist, hoping to ignite a ‘race war,’ gunned down nine Black parishioners at a church in Charleston.