13 August 2017   Leave a comment

On 13 August 1521, the capital of the Aztec Empire, Tenochtitlán, fell after a three-month siege by Hernán Cortés and his local allies, the Tlaxcaltec.  The city was founded in 1325 CE and by 1502 it reached the height of power in central Mexico under the rule of Montezuma II.  The Aztec Empire was sophisticated and complex, but ultimately it was unable to resist the military power of the Spanish which was underpinned by gunpowder.  Subsequently, Bartolomé de Las Casas wrote many tracts on how the Spanish had destroyed the indigenous culture of Mexico, culminating in his Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies which was written in 1542 and published in 1552.

Artist Rendering of Tenochtitlán as It Might Have Appeared in 1521

Only a fool would try to predict the next steps in the US-North Korean crisis–both leaders are deliberately unpredictable and incredibly loose with their pronouncements.  But we do have some sort of a timeline.  North Korea has given 15 August as the day it will launch missiles toward the island of Guam.  We do not know how close the missiles will land, what type of missiles they might be, and whether they will even be armed.  The US and South Korea are also scheduled to hold joint military exercises on 21 August, and those activities are always considered highly provocative by North Korea.  One point, however, is certain.  The US and North Korea have fought before in the Korean War, 1950-53.  That war ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, so the war has never officially ended.  Bruce Cumings is the author of the authoritative book in the English language on the Korean War, and he has written a short essay on the current situation.  North Korea is no stranger to the “fire and fury” of the US military.

I count the recent days in Charlottesville, Virginia as some of the saddest days of my life.  White supremacists and neo-nazis have always been part of the American social and political fabric throughout my life, but they were always in the background, kept there by the vast majority of decent citizens who held their views abhorrent and repugnant.  These groups apparently believe that they now have the backing of significant elements within the US political system and have decided that they can now emerge from the shadows.  I do not doubt that they will be forced back, but I am overwhelmed by the knowledge that old battles have to be refought.  There was, however, one photograph from the violence in Virginia that gave me great hope and inspiration.  An African-American police officer was so committed to the ideals of the Constitution that he upheld the right of people to state their views, even though those views were personally destructive to him.  That police officer is a person of great courage, dedication, and embodies the greatest aspirations of the America that I hope will someday be fully realized.

Posted August 13, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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