More apropos than ever, today is the commemoration of a great fighter for freedom in Nelson Mandela International Day; and then, in pre-Imperial Rome, long before Caesar crossed the Rubicon and other anti-Republican events occurred, two thousand four hundred and seven years ago, Gaulish interlopers had the gall and strength to overcome the Republic’s forces and thoroughly sack the city of Rome; four and a half centuries and four years later, in 54 CE, while allegedly Nero played his fiddle, the Great Fire of Rome destroyed much of the Imperial city; just two years short of three centuries thereafter, in 362, tens of thousands of Roman fighters disembarked in Antioch, in present-day Turkey, in preparation for Emperor Julian’s planned attack on the Persian Empire;ninety years beyond that passage, in 452, the latter-day descendants of Rome’s pre-current-era Gaulish attackers, under the leadership of Attila the Hun, began the siege of Aquileia which would lead to its annihilation and the rise of the city of Venice on the same spot; eight hundred thirty-eight years onward in time’s flow, in 1290, England’s rulers decided totally to ban Jewish people from the British aisles, leading to the expulsion of plus or minus 16,000 followers of the Torah; two years beyond half a century thereafter, in 1342, internecine conflicts in Southwest Asia, now Iran, resulted in the defeat of the almost secular Muslim Sarbadars by the fighters of Mu’izz al-Din Husayn, part of the Sunni Kurt dynasty; just short of another half century on time’s march toward the here and now, in 1391, early modern Russia experienced a somewhat similar conflict among those who would rule there when the soldiers of Timur, the last great Central Asian nomadic conqueror, routed the so-called ‘Golden Horde’ of Tokhtamysh; four hundred seven years back, the
noted painter and estimable maestro of chiaroscuro, Caravaggio, lived though his final darkened brushstroke; one hundred eleven years after that, in 1721, another brilliant artist, Jean-Antoine Watteau, of Rococo renown, died, only thirty-six years old; one year past three quarters of a century past that, in 1797, the little baby boy opened his eyes who would rise as the important German philosopher Immanuel Hermann Fichte; fourteen years further along the temporal pathway, in 1811, another male infant entered our midst en route to a life of fame and fortune as William Makepeace Thackeray, the beloved chronicler of Vanity Fair and other amazing stories;half a dozen years past that happy conjunction, in 1817, a much more sobering eventuality unfolded
with the closing of the final chapter of Jane Austen’s brilliant but relatively brief creative life; four decades hence, in 1857, France consolidated its imperial throttling of its sinecures in West Africa with the relief of its forces at Kayes, in present day Mali, from the siege of El Hajj Umar Tall; half a dozen years more in today’s direction, in 1863, the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Volunteers, which consisted of African American soldiers, became one of the first regiments of Black fighters to take part in a major action, an attempt to capture a fortress that defended the approaches to Charleston; an additional seven years yet later on, in 1870, across the Atlantic and through much of the Mediterranean, the First Vatican Council advanced as formal dogma the notion of Papal Infallibility; thirteen years yet nearer to now, in 1883, a third of the nation’s plus or minus 25,000 telegraph operators joined a strike that, in the event unsuccessfully, called for eight hour days, raises in pay, and equal pay for men and women in the same job position; seven years henceforth, in 1890, across the North Atlantic in England, the activist journalist and cofounder of the Women’s Suffrage Journal, Lydia Becker, cast her final ballot; half a decade farther down the pike, in 1895, a male child was born into the world who would mature as a bootlegger in Tennessee, George Barnes, who opportunistically changed his name to Kelly, ‘Machine Gun Kelly,’ who would kidnap oil magnates, continue to run rum, and generally commit crimes against property till the Federal Bureau of Investigation ran him to earth and sent him to prison, where he died on his fifty-ninth birthday; eleven years subsequent to that entry, in 1906, a male baby first cried out in Canada who would go on to fame and fortune as the Japanese American linguist and academic, S.I. Hayakawa, who negotiated with protesters at the University of San Francisco to form the first ethnic studies department in the nation, and another infant boy greeted the world en route to a life as the acclaimed playwright and screenwriter of progressive inclination and popular progress, Clifford Odets; eight further years along time’s inexorable march, in 1914, the United States formed an aerial adjunct to the Army’s Signal Corps, the beginnings of the U.S. Air Force, and a jury in Utah, because it loathed the International Workers of the World, condemned Wobbly songsmith Joe Hill to death for a murder that he did not commit; five years along time’s road, in 1919, over thirty-five thousand stockyard workers in Chicago went on strike for higher wages and safer working conditions; three years afterward, in 1922, the male child entered the world in standard fashion who would grow up to rock the history of science as Thomas Kuhn; across the wide ocean in Germany a thousand ninety-six day toward today, in 1925, Adolf Hitler oversaw the publication of Mein Kampf, a central piece of the fascist canon, which very few people realize is almost completely congruent with Henry Ford’s earlier-produced The International Jew; four years still later, in 1929, a male baby first gazed around him on his way to life as the crooner and lyricist, ‘Screamin’ Jay Hawkins;’ three years beyond that exact instant, in 1932,over the wide Atlantic and across much of Europe, the baby boy was born who would become the brilliant poet, dramatist, thinker, and novelist Yevgeny Yevtushenko; fourteen hundred sixty-one days after that, in 1936, to the East and South in Morocco, Spanish troops revolted and thereby sparked the Spanish Civil War; a mere year further along the temporal arc from there, in 1937, across the sea and a bit of North America in Louisville, a male infant gave a shout who would become the chief of ‘gonzo journalism,’ Hunter S. Thompson; three further years along the path toward today, in 1940, Franklin Delano Roosevelt received the backing for an unprecedented third Presidential term, as the winds of war blew hot and fierce over much of the globe; a half decade even closer to the current context, in 1945, shortly after FDR’s death during his fourth term of office, the House of Representatives Military Affairs subcommittee counsel announced that he had data that indicated that at least sixteen commissioned and non-commissioned officers in the Army had ‘communist backgrounds,’ the initiation of a police-state witch-hunt that had anti-communism as its primary impetus; nine years thereafter, in 1954, a baby boy came along whom fate had designated as the country singer and songwriter, Ricky Skaggs; fourteen more years past that precise conjunction, in 1968, the principals of the Intel Corporation founded their company in Mountain View, California; another year’s turn around our solar star, in 1969, three thousand miles East in Charleston, Black and White hospital workers, after a nearly four month struggle, won their strike for union recognition, while a thousand miles North, that evening, Mary Jo Kopechne drowned when Senator Edward Kennedy lost control of his vehicle and drove off a bridge; thirteen years still more proximate to the present pass, in 1982, death squads in the CIA-created fascist state of Guatemala butchered close to three hundred farmers and their families near Plan de Sanchez; seven hundred thirty-one days subsequent to that horror, in 1984, a thousand odd miles North in California, a delusional shooter attacked a McDonald’s and killed over twenty people and wounded almost twenty more before police fire ended his pathetic life; six years forward in space and time, in 1990, the ancient and estimable psychiatrist Carl Menninger breathed his last; two years past that juncture, in 1992, back in Latin America, armed forces murderers abducted a professor and nine students in Lima and tortured and shot them in retaliation for Shining Path guerilla depredations; a pair of years past that point precisely, in 1994, to the South and East in Argentina the Asociacion
Mutual Israelita in Buenos Aires suffered a bomb attack that killed eighty five people, mostly Jewish, and wounded over three hundred others, and across the South Atlantic and much of the African land mass, the Rwandan Patriotic Front dislodged the mass murderers who had been running the government and effectively ended the genocide in the country; a year still nearer to the here and now, in 1995, only a few months after her tragic murder, Selena’s album, Dreaming of You, posthumously reached number one on the Latin charts; a year and half a world away, in 1996, the Tamil Tigers in a Sri Lankan battle, at Mullaitivu, captured an army base and in the process killed or executed more than a thousand two hundred soldiers; just three years ahead of today’s light and air, in 2013, Detroit declared the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, in aggregate affecting over $20billion in indebtedness.