Little Changes

I first went to Germany in the early 1990s. I’d been to Switzerland with a history tour group, but this was my first time more or less on my own in a foreign country. It is amazing how quickly your language skills improve when you are trying to sort out if the meat-in-a-can is something like stew or hash, or if it is a version of Alpo dog food. You also learn which bakeries are open when, and which ones have the really, really good stuff. Continue reading

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Competent Gentlemen

“Why do you hang out with these guys?” The question was asked in jest as I was lurking in the smokers’ corner at LibertyCon.

“Because I like being around gentlemen.”

Laughter and, “These are not gentlemen.”

I beg to differ. They were not necessarily all gentle men. But they were gentlemen. Competent, polite, mature, gentlemen who treat ladies like ladies. You just do not want to get on their bad side, individually or collectively. I like that. Continue reading

But do the Young Readers Want to Read It?

One the way back from LibertyCon, Dorothy Grant read a review of a new book. Said review filled my buzzword-bingo card in the first paragraph, and the three of us laughed and groaned.

On a whim, a few days later I went to the publisher’s website to see what their take on the book was. Rather less entertaining than the earlier review, but the “Colonizer’s Comeuppance” headline is what I consider fair warning, as is the first paragraph of the blurb. Other on-line reviews… let’s just say that the half-unicorn sounds waaaaaayyyyy too passive and accepting of torment than I care to read about. If I want martyrs I’ll go through the beautiful art-book I got about saints’ lives.

I went looking at the site’s YA book reviews, out of curiosity more than anything, and with a little fear that they might not be what I’d have wanted to read when I was YA age. After all, this is Tor.com, and they’ve been pretty clear about encouraging diversity in authors and characters without always focusing on story. Continue reading

“We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident, that all Men are Created Equal…”

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —” Continue reading

Walls and Freedom

“Don’t fence me in.”

Freedom today means freedom of movement, at least for a lot of people. Walls are a rejection of that. They constrain people, keeping some out who want (or should be?) in, and lock in those who really want to be out and about. The Berlin Wall was an outward and visible sign of the failings of the East German Communist system. Activists decry talk of a border wall between the US and Mexico, and hurl epithets at the new walls and fences between Hungary and other places.

Five hundred years ago, without a wall, you were not free. You had no independence. Walls meant freedom. Continue reading

Civilizing the Barbarians

Welcome, Instapunderati! Thank you for stopping by.

Why did the Franks, Saxons, and others work so hard to copy Rome and to adopt chunks of Roman culture (as transmitted through the Christian church?) At first, they didn’t. The Franks of Charlemagne and the Franks that ran the last Romans out of what is now northern Germany and the Netherlands were 350 years apart and very different in some ways. In others, well, it took a great deal of unceasing, patient (and not so patient) work by people who still believed that the old ways were good, and that they had a mission to save the souls of the pagans, which also meant teaching them to read and write. And the pagans came to believe that the old ways could give them power and authority.

In short, it was long and complicated and messy. Welcome to human history. Continue reading

Charity, Tradition, and Isolation

From the days of Amarillo’s founding, if an individual wanted to show off their wealth, one of the expectations was that they would do so by donating to or founding a charitable organization. The first major rancher in Amarillo, William Bush (no relation to the presidents), realized that the area desperately needed a hospital. He looked at options, and even though he was not Catholic, decided that the Sisters of Mercy were the best at managing a hospital and providing care, so he invited them to the wilds of the Texas Panhandle and founded St. Anthony’s Hospital. Other ranchers, bankers, and developers followed suit. Continue reading