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History (and Other Books) That Relates to Current Events


Events this week have me thinking of Edward Robb Ellis' Echoes of Distant Thunder, Life in the United States, 1914-1918. 

The event was a verbal & physical assault on a Muslim taxi driver in Virginia.

The Washington Post reported on the attack here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/va-man-charged-with-assaulting-musli...

This one of many attacks following the Boston Marathon bombing and by and large responsible people have denounced them (note that I do include Fox News in that category). There have been times in the past when that (the denouncing) might not have taken place.

Ellis' book describes US reaction to German U boat attacks on American shipping. One attack in particular on a ferry boat of the coast of Chatham, MA ignited a firestorm of anti-German fury that saw many German Americans assaulted and killed and in at least one case a home was broken into and a bust of Beethoven smashed in the spasm of fury.

More chilling in those pre-FBI days, a vigilante force of some 500,000 volunteers sprang up and bought badges for 50 cents apiece that deputized the wearer to wreak havoc on those suspected of German sympathies. I believe Steinbeck's East of Eden makes reference to this wave of violence as well.

 

I'm wondering if anyone else here has read anything historical that ties into current events like this?

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The Sacred Geometry of Washington DC -

- the Integrity and Power of the Original Design by Nicholas Mann.

This book was a fun one, combining a few of my favorite subjects - DC, planning and design, and geometry.

Mann takes a look at L'Enfant's original plan and sees something interesting - geometric patterns based on the perfection of the Golden Mean, the power of pentacles, and some very introspective considerations of the brand new, founding principals of the nation.

L'Enfant placed the center of things with the people, at the Capitol building. He drew out north, south, east and west avenues. The westerly ave was L'Enfant's mall - a place for the citizens to congregate, enjoy arts, wander, and socialize.

The eastern part of town was to be the grand entryway for L'Enfant, and he wanted to place a marker one mile east of the Capitol (the current location of Lincoln Park, and a statue of Lincoln freeing the slaves). This square was to be a center of business and commerce, and the mile marker was L'Enfant's way of placing a new meridian at the Capitol building. His intention was that everything in the nation would be measured from this point.

The marker also is the clue to the Golden Mean in his design. It completes the 1.618 ratio of the President's House to Congress to the mile marker and those points allowed L'Enfant to begin drawing circles and laying in pentacles to align his avenues.

The Capitol and the White House have their front doors facing outwards, to the nation, by design. The avenues running to and from them were designed, in L'Enfant's plan, to radiate from the front doors so someone standing there could look out at the country.

These two buildings were connected by a straight avenue in the original design. (The treasury building was added by a later president who didn't want to see Congress, blocking the straight view.)

The Supreme Court, however, was to be placed over near what is now Judiciary Square, and L'Enfant made sure no roads led directly between the court and the Congress or White House, to emphasize its independence. (The court was eventually built directly across the street from the Capitol.)

L'Enfant's design placed each of the buildings at auspicious geometrical points - centers and intersections of overlapping circles or stars.

His design had a lot of power and symbolism, placing the center of things with the people and keeping the president in check. He was fired and other designers took over, moving things about and making changes that destroyed the "perfection" of his geometrical layouts, and the intention of his design.

For example, Jefferson moved the meridian from L'Enfant's location at the Capitol over to the White House, moving the center to be in line with the president rather than congress. Additions of the onward looking Lincoln Memorial, the large, central Washington monument, and the Jefferson Memorial also pull the center away from the people and to the executive branch.

The author says there is some interest in restoring more of L'Enfant's plan, but to do so would mean some redevelopment for the eastern part of the city. He makes a good case for it… the "broken" ideals of l'Enfant's unique vision could be restored and perhaps it would begin to fix the "broken" government we have currently.

Mann isn't the only one looking at the geometry of the city. For a slightly different take, here's a video that shows some similar work, with different conclusions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pECqbYMZTk

 

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