Long time, no blog. Might’ve called this the Winter of my Discontent, but I don’t really want to get into the details of the past few months. Housing and income dramas are underway, with no particular end in sight, while various political and social groupings left me feeling isolated and disappointed. So it goes. And I just haven’t felt like writing. Photos in this post not related to what I’m writing about, but kind of a parallel story of high tides and beautiful winter light.
I find myself staying up and getting up late (it was really bad during the holidaze), reading a lot, staying home instead of going out, reducing my internet time though not as much as I ought to. Never fails to amaze me how much time I can waste noodling around the internet, reading posts, news, catching up on this and that. I’m going to come back to this in a later post, but one cluster of books I read recently included Geert Lovink’s Networks Without a Cause which informed me that no one reads blogs, or if there are some readers, certainly no one comments on them (that has long been my experience—stats indicate that there are usually about 1000 visitors a month, but how many are real people? How many read anything through? And comments? Less than a dozen per year of non-spam, actual thoughtful commentaries.) I’ve always understood this blog, and my writing in general, to be in service to what I want to say. I don’t write for an audience. I appreciate it when people get something out of what I write, but I have never written FOR an audience, but for myself.
Anyway, I just started teaching 19th century San Francisco history at the SF Art Institute again, and decided I needed to get better informed about the first half of the 19th century that preceded the founding of San Francisco or the acquisition of California by the U.S. Some months ago I read about Andrew Jackson and his Indian Wars against the large cultures of the southeast (Creek, Cherokee, Seminole, Chocktaw, Chickasaw), pushing them west across the Mississippi during his Presidential reign 1828-1836. Even earlier than that I read about the Comanches and the empire they anchored in the southern Great Plains from the mid-18th century to after the Civil War, a story that is left out of most histories. Due to the severe pressure of Comanche raids on Texas, Mexico liberalized immigration to the territory, leading to an influx of Americans who became the majority of the population by the early 1830s. The Texans gained their independence from Mexico in 1836 and were an independent country for about nine years before annexation to the United States in 1845. But those years of independence involved huge debts incurred to British and U.S. banks, a floundering economy, and a persistent claim by Mexico that Texas was still part of it, while at the same time the Comanches continued their dominating economic role of raiding and trading all around and in Texan territory, making economic development along capitalist or even just large agrarian lines nearly impossible.
Amy Greenberg’s excellent history “A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico” helped me grasp a lot of the missing pieces politically of the decade and a half before the beginning the city of San Francisco. Perhaps the most remarkable single item I learned was how the U.S. started the Mexican-American War. I had assumed it had to do with the gold discovery in California and that there had been some kind of pretext to allow the U.S. to attack. But I hadn’t realized that the pattern established in 1846 became the DNA of U.S. military expansionism and is still being followed to this day.