One of my reads this summer, that I am thoroughly enjoying, is The True Flag by Stephen Kinzer. There is no way to have predicted the reading of this book would be timed with the events playing out in Afghanistan.
At issue in the book, and in our daily newspapers, is a question that we never have resolved as a nation. How should the United States act on the world stage?
The book examines the events of 1898 and 1899, from Cuba to the Philippines, and points in-between as witnessed by the larger-than-life names of the time. With detailed writing that illuminates the intensity and convictions of both sides in this most consequential time for the nation, the book is both a story of the past and a lesson book for the future.
Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and William Randolph Hearst were most earnest about expanding the scope and power of our nation. Meanwhile, Mark Twain, Booker T. Washington, and Andrew Carnegie urged restraint in the lust for new lands and international intrigue. The same roiling arguments then over events around the globe are of the same order to the ones still driving us towards foreign wars in a desire to deposing governments. As in Afghanistan, while we retreat—but history proves this cycle of international involvement never ends.
Kinzer writes with the aid of old newspapers and Senate journals and has created a most remarkable account of how this aspect of our nation started with our war against Spain.
Today I am reading about the vote in the Senate regarding the Philippines, during February 1989, when this description of the weather in Washington, D.C. was presented.
I love history, there is no doubt. But I also am most fond of weather phenomena and find the events that were the greatest, biggest, worst, coldest, or hottest most worthy to further investigate.
As with the Great Arctic Outbreak of 1899.
The Great Arctic Outbreak didn’t just bring cold to the nation. It also brought snow and ice and lots of it. By the time blizzard conditions ceased in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, Cape May, New Jersey, record over 30 inches of snow, as did Washington, DC, and Baltimore, Maryland. On February 17, ice was even witnessed flowing down the Mississippi River, past New Orleans, and into the Gulf of Mexico. And, a one-inch thick layer of ice formed at the mouth of the Mississippi in East and Garden Island Bays in Louisiana.
Over 100 people were estimated to have lost their lives during to the Great Arctic Outbreak. The outbreak damaged or destroyed numerous crops, and countless livestock perished. In Georgia, many orchards of young trees were killed outright, and farmers had to completely replant them. Ice in the Mississippi River and Great Lakes completely halted barge traffic. The cold, snow, and ice also heavily damaged buildings and infrastructure across much of the country.
I continually find the best books are the ones that open still more doors with questions or curiosities. Score a solid win for The True Flag as Kinzer recognizes the present in the past. And is most capable of conveying the lessons of history we need to know as we move forward.
And so it goes.