This book is a quick, easy read. Its plot is straight forward and logical.
I appreciate the way Hal Borland was able to convey Thomas Black Bull's eniThis book is a quick, easy read. Its plot is straight forward and logical.
I appreciate the way Hal Borland was able to convey Thomas Black Bull's enigmatic character. While the violence of Tom's existence seemed to be something which drove him to become who he ultimately was, it also seems contradictory that a child whose mother's profound influence was aimed at showing him about the sacredness of life could in turn be so violent. That did not make sense at all to me.
I think, considering his character development, it might have made sense to Tom - that after the first horse died - he had to change his ways. That said, this story might have followed a different path. Never the less, the story is excellent and I enjoyed it so much that I found myself thinking about Tom and how he was going to fare when I was not reading the book. To me, that is an indication that the writer has made a connection and moreover, s/he is doing something right. ...more
This book succinctly summarizes the plight of Americas' indigenous people. I found myself reading the history feeling as though I was pushed off a cliThis book succinctly summarizes the plight of Americas' indigenous people. I found myself reading the history feeling as though I was pushed off a cliff. This sustained free-fall just never seemed to get better. This is not a 'feelgood' book; it echos themes of betrayal, bigotry and avarice as Native Americans steadily were broken down and extinguished and their way of life was encroached upon and displaced by a budding nation's fantasy quest to fulfill its Euro-centric ideology of Manifest Destiny to justify its explosive westward expansion toward the Pacific coast.
The book is laid out as a chronicle and references interesting events in a time line which gives a sense of contextual reality as the tragic history which, if it were not true, would read like some fantastic tale of genocide. Unfortunately, the reality is weighted with historical evidence and this book serves as a telling synopsis of how Human Beings are capable of destroying entire cultures when greed and ambition are served by religious and social conventions bent to serve selfish gains.
My emotions raged from surprise to rage and, hopelessness to profound despair. Dee Brown, the librarian-turned-author has delivered a timeless piece of work which challenges any thinking person to question how history is being taught.
The book touches me on so many levels - things I can neither divulge in this writing and things I cannot even begin to explain. Nonetheless, it forces me to reckon with who I am as a member of Humanity and it compels me to carry a deeper understanding for what it means to be alive.
My ethnicity is that of a 'mestizo' (Sp) - mixed blood person's - heritage. I carry the mongrel mix of my European and middle eastern roots and my DNA also belies the heritage of America's native people. Consequently, the angst I feel is one which tugs at bittersweet sense of right and wrong, of destiny and direction; my ancestors walked this earth both as conquerors and as conquered.
What the book does for me is it re-acquaints me with how the world is never simply black and white. My sense of social justice and moreover the deep understanding that every Human Being has an intrinsic value are clouded with shades of gray. What disturbs me most however is how wholesale destruction of a people can be carried out by what I can only describe as God-fearing, decent Human Beings driven by wanton, self-serving interests. Even more appalling is just how far we, as a species are willing to go in order to justify avarice.
I highly recommend this book - not because of the repulsiveness of violence - but, because it serves as a touchstone for our collective consciousness. In a world where atrocities seem the rule rather than an exception to the Human experience, I believe this book serves our better interests because it acts as a mirror upon which we can reflect. Its sharp focus serves to dull the lines of distinction that we love to invoke in our need to set ourselves apart from our fellow Human Beings.
Such reflection leads to contemplation and cognition which, far and away, is far better than rationalization of the variety where we can diminish the value of anyone who happens to be different. The truest danger we all are at risk for is mistakenly believing that our differences are so great that the only explanation which will suffice is to deem one another inferior and thus not worthy of the full measure of respect that we all deserve - simply because we are members of the Human species.
One thread that I found particularly fascinating was the level of eloquence all of the chiefs quoted in their communication. If anything, it sheds light on a highly intelligent, cultured and elegant in their dialogue - quite different from the invocations of noble savages of James Fenimore Cooper or the bigoted rants of 'civilized' European descendants and Hollywood archetypes so prevalent in the movies of my childhood. These people weren't 'John Wayne' Indians.
Do yourself a favor and read what they had to say. Their words are brilliant and thoughtful. ...more
I approached this book with some reservation because I was already aware of President Jackson's history regarding treatment of Native Americans and hi I approached this book with some reservation because I was already aware of President Jackson's history regarding treatment of Native Americans and his stand on slavery. I did however come away with a few realizations - from a perspective that I had not previously known.
Jon Meacham detailed the changes that Jackson implemented regarding the Executive branch - his examples include;
1] Jackson's usage of the veto as a political tool coupled with his expansion of executive powers and establishment of the presidency as political force which did not exist prior to Jackson's tenure as President of the United States [POTUS:],
2] being the first to completely replace his presidential cabinet thereby establishing that those members served at the pleasure of the president.
3] his introduction of legislation (Force Act) to affect change and to forecast his preparedness to act in the event someone intended to break up the union. In other words, threatening something extreme in order to get something generally perceived to be less benign.
4] his usage of executive branch to force policy change (Banks)
5] his usage of the media for fomenting his ideas and for advancing his agenda.
6] his reference to the voting populace as a mandate to implement his populist ideas - or perhaps, appealing to the masses in order to implement his agenda.
7] invoking the spoils system he was the first to dismiss federal office holders en masse.
Allowing for tempo-centric considerations regarding his bigotry, his fervent nationalism and passionate voice for the common (white) man, Meacham painted a fairly accurate picture of a man who, judged according to the prevailing sentiments of his times - and by people who shared a common Northern European heritage - he would have been a great man. His willful, obstinate, fiercely loyal nature served him well.
The Roman philosopher Herodotus said, "Soft lands breed soft men." Andrew Jackson is a good example for that axiom; he was, to be certain a tough man and the genteel world of the Washington of his time certainly proved to be a place where he could push his way around without much appreciable resistance. Perhaps the greatest nuance of his time was that he could get his way regardless of the opposition. It appears the opposition soon learned the value of having a medium (the printed press) in order to mount an effective opposition.
If any of this sounds at all familiar, I suspect it is because the author is looking back at the nineteenth century with his feet firmly planted in the 21st. Andrew Jackson's presidency seems to be quite familiar with the administration of President George W. Bush.
In short, it smacks of Rovian politics and, - to me - this is where Meacham fell short; he did not detail how such powerful nuanced re-interpretation of presidential power could have come from such an uneducated man. The constitutional law behind Jackson's vision is powerful and highly academic and yet, it seems he just had a great head for constitutional law. It makes me wonder whether it was in fact Martin VanBuren who was the brains behind the operation. We will never know from this book.
Unfortunately, the aberrant leanings president Jackson held, even during his time, were already proving to be distasteful in nineteenth century America. His deathbed statements regarding Heaven not being exclusively a realm for whites only indicates he was cognizant of the inherent injustice for slaves in the world he was living and preparing to leave shortly. Also, once the crisis of nullification had been averted the first time, President Jackson wrote about the potential role that slavery was certain to play in the future (six days before he would appoint an obscure country lawyer - Abraham Lincoln - to a low Federal Postal position in Illinois.)
Old Hickory predicted that slavery would eventually lead to a civil war. Unfortunately the president's prescient nature was accurate but he did not see himself as the instrument that would bring such an abomination to an end. While the book is an interesting read, I did not find it too cumbersome as others have alluded to. I also have a difficult time dismissing this account of his life as a 'white-wash' as other readers have contended. There are many accounts in the story which address the unfair treatment of Native Americans and his stand on slavery. For anyone to ignore that Andrew Jackson was an example of and a product of his time is to fall into the same tempo-centric trap that he fell into. Consequently, while slavery and Jackson's forbearance of long-standing treaties with the sovereign Indian nations were the order of his day - application of 2009 standards in retrospect are just as unmerited as the sins his modern-day critics are frowning upon.
To me there is a greater lesson to be garnered in looking back upon history; the wrongs can be reflected upon with an eye toward ensuring that such similar errors may be more easily understood and even avoided in the future. And, there are plenty of lessons to be learned. I could not help but notice the similarities of nationalism and invocation of populist themes in order to affect change as evidenced in our past presidential administration. It strikes me that the themes which resonated so strongly during the popular Jackson Administration were recently echoed by the Bush II reign as well. So too were the voices of opposition. This not to imply that bigotry exists towards at the same level today as in 19th century America however, there is no denying that similar shadows persist toward Latin American immigrants and Muslims in the paranoiac, post-9/11 America we live in today. The ultimate question in this or any democracy is whether majority rule trumps minority rights.
For my part, this was decent book and, while I would recommend it, it will not rank among the best books I have read. It is nonetheless, a pointed study about what happens when strong-minded personalities enter the office of president. It also demonstrates how fluid the description of the office can be and moreover, how mercurial personalities can effect the outcome of history - but, owing to contemporary experiences with our own presidencies of late, we already knew that. ...more