I was thinking about how relationships connect us… ya know, the whole 6 degrees of separation kind of thing. Specifically, I was thinking about how relationships connect us to history.
Obama mentioned an old black lady who voted for the first time in her life. She was born a mere generation after the ending of slavery and saw all the conflicts of the civil rights movement which led up to this moment in history of a black man being elected president. The elderly are living history. Some other examples: the last surviving veteran of the Indian Wars died in 1973 (2 yrs before I was born), and the last Civil War veteran died in 1959 (the last known widow of a Civil War veteran died in 2004).
My grandmother (my mother’s mother), who is slightly younger than the aforementioned old black lady, was also born in the early part of the last century when some Native Americans were still fighting for their independence. The last of the Apache fought until 1900 and Geronimo died in 1909. The US Cavalry had their last battle with the Yaqui in 1918, but the Yaquis continued fighting the Mexicans until 1927. Ishi was one of the last Native Americans who lived entirely free from contact with settlers until he was discovered in 1911 and he died in 1916.
American history isn’t very long and even the earliest generations of Americans aren’t that far beyond the living memory of our culture. The last Founding Father to die was Madison in 1836. An older person alive today is potentially only one degree of separation away from the Founding Fathers.
This reminds me of another thing.
My great grandfather (my father’s father’s father) was born poor. After his mother died, his father sent him to a Shaker orphanage. As a point of interest, the Shakers no longer exist and the last Shaker died in 1992. The Shakers were a popular group during the Civil War and they were the leaders in Agricultural technology. My great grandfather learned a great deal about agriculture before leaving the community. Because of his talent with plants, he was hired by an extremely wealthy family to be the caretaker of their estate.
My grandfather grew up on the estate with the rich kids which made him envious of the good life but strangely he became a minister. Despite his meager salary, he raised his children with an appreciation for the good things in life. His children grew up to have respectable careers and could afford to live a comfortable upper middle class lifestyle. One of my cousins got in to the computer industry where he makes even more money and married a princess from banished Middle Eastern Royalty.
So, it only took a few generations to go from poor farmer to marrying into royalty. Ahhh, the American Dream. From the immigrant perspective, how many generations does it take to go from royalty to marrying a descendent of a poor farmer? 🙂