Today is Children’s Day in both Japan and South Korea, while the U.S. and Mexico commemorate Cinco de Mayo, and conscious citizens around the world celebrate International Midwives’ Day; in Constantinople fourteen hundred sixty-three years ago, the Second Council of Constantinople began, one of seven such meetings that shaped the form and function on both Eastern and Western Christian churches; much later, eight centuries and a year before this very day, rebellious nobility in England renounced their loyalty to King John, a foreswearing that soon led to the signing of the Magna Carta; forty five years later, in 1260, the grandson of Genghis became Kublai Khan, consolidating control over East Asia and maintaining a complex interlocking set of power relationships that oversaw plus-or-minus one sixth of the world’s most inhabited areas; two centuries and thirty-four years beyond that juncture, in 1494, Christopher Columbus was among those in his expedition who set foot on what is now Jamaica, an inhabited land that he claimed for Spain; a hundred forty-six years thereafter, in 1640, the first King Charles Stuart sought to manipulate the Parliament he had dissolved a dozen years before into financing his campaigns against Scotland and his own people, which when they refused to be pawns to such a charade, led to this new sitting’s dissolution and moniker of the Short Parliament; a year shy of a century-and-a-half later, in 1789, France’s revolutionary attack on despotic aristocracy permitted the convening for the first time in close to two hundred years of the feeble but still-real expression of democracy that the Estates General embodied; eleven years beyond that date in time, in 1800, a new kind of prince—of the bourgeoisie—came into the world in France as baby boy Louis Christophe Francois Hachette, who became—and whose family still remains—one of the world’s chief publishers; thirteen years hence, in 1813, further North and East in Europe a male child was born who would mature as the remarkable and penetrating thinker and critic, Soren Kierkegaard; half-a-decade henceforth, in 1818, in a German part of Europe between France and Denmark another young male entered the world who would grow up to enmity and acclaim as a philosopher and thinker and political-economist and people’s champion named Karl Marx; three years yet more proximate to today, in 1821, an experiment in imperial imprimatur exited the world with Napoleon’s death, in exile on Elba; eleven years subsequently, in 1832, across the Atlantic and the North American landmass, a male infant took his first breath in Ohio en route to life as historian of indigenous peoples and the West, Hubert H. Bancroft; another fourteen years along the arc of time’s flight, in 1846, a Polish baby boy entered the world in the usual way, a member of a ‘displaced’ aristocratic clan, who would go on to great popularity and fame, including Nobel literary laurels, as Henryk Sienkiewicz; an additional fourteen years forward in time, in 1860, Giuseppe Garibaldi embarked with a small army on the voyage of ‘conquest’ to Sicily that would result in a modern, more-or-less united Europe; two years after that conjunction, in 1862, across the ocean in Mexico, national forces there—with the assistance of the United States—repelled a French incursion that sought to ‘revolutionize’ this northernmost outpost of Hispanic America as a redoubt for free trade, debt-slavery, relief-of-the-rich-from-
nearer to now, in 1891, New York opened a municipal Music Hall with flair as Tchaikovsky served as guest-conductor; ten years beyond that temporal conjunction, in 1901, a baby boy from an entirely different milieu, a working-class child of Georgia, came along who matured as legendary singer and songwriter and guitarist ‘Blind’ Willie McTell; eleven years later in space and time, in 1912,Russia’s Bolsheviks first published the particular voice of Pravda; half a decade even closer to the current context, in 1917, a baby boy was born who would go on to a long life as the singer and songwriter and Cuban icon of the Buena Vista Social Club, Pio Leyva; fourteen hundred sixty-one days hence, in 1921, Alfred H. Fried, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient and denizen of a pacifism that stood impotently by as World War One exploded, drew his final breath, and ‘dreaded’ anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti faced arrest for murders that they did not commit but for which they would die; four years still further on, in 1925, Tennessee teacher John Scopes faced arrest and brief incarceration for the crime of instructing his students about evolution; six years more on time’s path to now, in 1931, the upheaval that we now know as Bloody Harlan began in Kentucky, a life-and-death struggle in the Appalachian coal fields; three years still more proximate to the present pass, in 1934, the Three Stooges released their first short feature, an exercise in misogyny and comic confusion, The Woman Haters; a single year past that point, in 1936, six thousand miles from Tennessee in Ethiopia, Italy ‘annexed’ the African nation with the arrival at Addis Ababa of troops to install the fascists formally after half a year of poison gas and imperial attrition against Imperial Ethiopian forces that France and England supported; another annual solar passage subsequent to that moment, in 1937, some forty thousand lumberjacks went on strike in the Pacific Northwest,
soon enough winning union recognition, an eight hour day, and higher—if still execrable—wages; four years henceforth, in 1941, Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie returned to rule his country with the help of both British Nigerian troops and the coming implosion that resulted from Italy’s alliance with Hitler; a year beyond that day, in 1942 across the Atlantic in the U.S. a baby girl uttered her first heartfelt cry on her way to a life as crooner and songwriter Tammy Wynette; three years later still, back across the Atlantic in 1945, citizens of Prague rose en masse against the Nazis who remained nominally in command in Czechoslovakia; another year along the temporal arc, in 1946, halfway round the world in Japan, a tribunal first sat in judgment against Japanese military and government officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity; three more years further down time’s twisting pathways, in 1949, the Treaty of London established a basis for opposition to further communist expansion in the region with the establishment of the Council of Europe; a decade and a half yet later on, in 1964, this same Council of Europe declared May 5 as
Europe Day; filmmaker and critic John Waters died a single year subsequent to that passage, in 1965, and the group that became the Grateful Dead premiered as the Warlocks in Menlo Park, California; a dozen years later still, in 1977, David Frost and the British Broadcasting Corporation released the first of the host’s lengthy interviews with Richard Nixon; three years afterward, in 1980 across the ocean in London, British Special Forces responded to the Iranian militants’ seizure of the Iranian embassy—which had theretofore been an outpost of British Petroleum and ‘Western’ intelligence—by storming the building and eliminating at least this reminder of the resistance to a new imperialism; seven years later, in 1987, in an outgrowth of the same process, U.S. television networks began live coverage of the Iran Contra hearings; four years further on, in 1991, riots erupted in the Mt. Pleasant section of the District of Columbia after police murdered an unarmed Salvadoran resident there; ten hundred ninety-six days thereafter, in 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia agreed to manage their differences over Nagorno-Karabakh without warfare, a promise that has since unraveled; seven further years beyond that juncture, in 2001, Clifton Hillegas, the originator of an original ‘cheat sheet,’ Cliff’s Notes, breathed his last; two years closer still to the present, in 2003, seven thousand miles Southeast in Southern Africa, Apartheid critic and thinker and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Walter Sisilu, died; eleven years more in the direction of today, in 2014, plus or minus twenty-eight refugees drowned in the Aegean Sea when two boats laden with would-be immigrants collided in mid-ocean.