Dear History Lover,
Many folks consider historians as studious surveyors of days' gone by; virtuosos of time who venerate the past, with their heads fixated on the
people and places of yore. In actuality, historians are as focused on the future as they are on antiquity, largely because they recognize the redundancy of reaction. They see the repeated errors in humanity's habits.
On the morning of May 1, I watched as the U.S. Speaker of the House visited a war-torn nation. I ruminated on the prospective outcomes of governmental interception. As shadows of a Lend-Lease Program cast uncertainty on global futures, I shift focus to the ordinary people; those who are yearning to exist, whilst possessing the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I recently received an email from a contact in Eastern Europe, describing the refugee crisis streaming into their nation. I tried to empathize with this feeling of exile, calling upon my own research of the cornerstone of American independence. The founders of our Republic were similarly exiled from Boston, Massachusetts amidst a slew of Coercive (i.e. "Intolerable") Acts. Though the weapons of the late 18th Century are strikingly different than those of the 21st; there are elements that remain the same: starvation, attrition, and exile. The weapons may change, but the war remains the same.
A problematic political cartoon, created January 1774, depicts the violation of an indigenous woman, who represents America, while an agent of the King force-feeds her tea, with a copy of the Boston Port Bill (one of the Coercive Acts), hanging from his pocket. Meanwhile, a sword-wielding man, costumed in outdated attire, is seen on far right, with
the words "Military Law" inscribed upon the blade. Source: New York Public Library.
In our dedication to share history with our readers, we walk a road to refuge, while we contemplate the history of refugee crises. In the last two centuries, civil war, famine, genocide, and economic disaster have catalyzed refugee situations. The Irish Potato Famine of 1845-55 catalyzed one of the worst humanitarian crises in history. The potato– a staple crop in Irish provisions– was a necessary ingredient
for the lower and middle classes. The Irish were able to grow many potatoes in relatively small spaces; a highly efficient root vegetable upon which existed societal dependence. As a blight Phytophthora infestans ravaged crops, the government did little to support the struggling population (Read The Famine
Plot Revisited, in which the author reassess the Famine as genocide). Many fled the country in a remarkable refugee crisis. From 1845-1855, the population of Boston doubled, as tens of thousands flocked to its shores. American cities on the eastern seaboard subsequently despised the influx of émigrés and the 19th & 20th Centuries were marred by discrimination and violence toward Irish immigrants.
Boston's Irish Potato Famine Memorial in Downtown Crossing on Washington Street. Photo: Robert Shure Depiction: Phillip Capper - https://www.flickr.com/photos/flissphil/5679513314/. Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55605037
A less frequently discussed refugee crisis happens also to be the largest recorded in the Americas and continues to worsen. Venezuela, facing a desperate economic shortfall amidst dropping prices in their primary export of oil, has endured economic disaster and prompted asylum-seekers to take leave of the nation. Subsequently, worsening national healthcare and an increase in violent crime further motivates the populace to an exodus. Between the mid-nineties and 2013, Venezuelans living abroad ballooned
to over 4 million, a 2000% increase in average emigration rates, and with it, an increase of violence and persecution was exacted by those nearby nations toward Venezuelans. In Pacaraima, Brazil, an entire Venezuelan refugee camp was destroyed after rumor circulated that a group of Venezuelans had assaulted a Brazilian. The situation has received little support from the United Nations, meaning there is a deficit of humanitarian support, leaving many Venezuelans in desperation.
This is a call for empathy. Though I cannot begin to offer resolutions for current refugee crises within the body of an email, I choose to empathize. I choose to see these situations through the eyes of those average citizens, who endure the repercussions
of governmental neglect and oversight. I recognize that the ripple effect of war weighs heavily on us all.
Peace, love, and history.
Founder | Artistic Director
With support from Collin Robert Smith, Social Media Coordinator.
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