Monday, June 28, 2010

What does it have to do with me?

One question I hear a lot from the younger generation and even people from my own generation is what does history have to do with me? Why is it important to what I'm doing now? It's not exactly easy to answer without going into a huge explanation. The simple answer is "If we don't learn from history, we're doomed to repeat it." That is true, and I will point out those times in a later blog. We as a people cannot seem to learn from some of our mistakes. Another reason people say is that history tells us why we are where we are today. Wow, that was a mouthful. Anyway, I find both to be apt, but I will talk about the second.

We are shaped by our environment. Part of who we are comes from where we grew up and the people and situations around us. My experience is different from yours, as it is also different from someone who grew up in Russia or anywhere else around the world. If the U.S. were to have been in a constant depression instead of going up and down throughout my life, then my life might have been a little different. The best example I can give of how history has made the United States and the world what it is today is a look at a disagreement between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. I could go further, but this event really made things take off.

Austria-Hungary and Serbia didn't exactly get along during the late 1800's and early 1900's. Serbia became outraged that Austria-Hungary annexed the country of Bosnia, therefore cutting off Serbia from the Adriatic Sea. Serbia began getting into wars with parts of the Ottoman empire and conquered Kosovo and Macedonia. These military victories and anger over the annexation of Bosnia caused something drastic to happen in Serbia.

Mind you, at this time, all of these countries, including Russia and Germany were feeling extremely nationalistic. There was a lot of pride going around, but also some teaming up with other countries.

In the summer of 1914, the terrorist group called "The Black Hand" from Serbia got together to try and pick someone from the Austria-Hungary rulers to assassinate. When other choices didn't work out, they decided to go after presumptive heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were visiting Sarajevo in Bosnia to look at military maneuvers. The plan was to throw a percussion bomb at the couple's motorcade as they passed by. Two of the six members chickened out and didn't throw their bombs. The third did though, missed and blew up the car directly behind Ferdinand's. The would be assassin tried to take a cyanide pill but it it just made him throw up. The reaction from the crowd was typical with attempted or successful assassinations, they proceeded to try and beat the man to death before the police could intervene.

Ferdinand still gave his planned speech and then left with his motorcade. Having heard that the assassination failed, Gavrilo Princip, another member of the terrorist group, decided to get a sandwich like any terrorist would after a failed assassination. Upon leaving the deli, he saw something he probably didn't believe at first. It was the archduke and his wife going in reverse in front of the deli. Princip, not believing his luck, quickly pulled out his pistol and fired two shots into the car. The first went through Sophie's abdomen, and the second through the Archduke's jugular vein. Princip was quickly arrested. Both died within a short time.

So it's just another assassination, so what!? Well, in my opinion, it's one of the most world changing events in history. Here's why:

Since 1912, Austria-Hungary wanted any reason to destroy Serbia, and now they had it. They delivered a ultimatum that pretty much said that Serbia had to bow down to them and apologize for everything. If not, Austria-Hungary would declare war on them. Remember how I said that there was a lot of pride going around? Well, Serbia was a little too proud of that and told Austria-Hungary to bring it on. This is where all the dominoes start to fall. The two countries start to get all their friends in on it. Serbia gets their big brother Russia to back them up, who then got England, France, and Belgium among others. Austria-Hungary went and got it's big brother Germany to help them, who then got the Ottoman Empire. And just like that you have the first world war. America joined later on the side of Serbia. That sounds a little weird that the U.S. sided with the country that assassinated another countries future ruler, but OK.

Fast forward to the end. A lot of blame went on Germany and France and England wanted to punish them. Wilson and the U.S. didn't really want to do that, but Wilson's Fourteen Points were largely ignored. The Treaty of Versailles made Germany say that it caused the war, and that it had to give up land, most of it's military and pay reparations to the winners. This caused extreme bitterness in Germany as you can imagine and paved the way for a political party to lead them back to greatness. Or at least that's what the party said. The party I'm talking about is of course the Nazi's lead by Adolf Hitler. The Nazi's promised the German people that they would get revenge for what these other countries had done to them. This rise of the Nazi party eventually led to World War II.

Both wars shaped new countries in Asia and the Middle East. They may not have been created had it not have been for these wars. World War II lead to a sour relationship between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, otherwise known as the Cold War. Our alliances in WWII and ambition to stomp out communism led us to Korea and Vietnam. The Cold War and the power struggles caused by our help and our enemies help caused massive unrest in Latin America and the Middle East.

My point is this: America and the rest of the world is where it is today because of one tiny event. Again, people will argue with me and say that any event would of caused Austria-Hungary and Serbia to go to war, or any other country to declare war, but I believe that it had to happen just like it did. Perhaps if it had happened any other way, we might not have the same technology we have today. The wars we have been in have caused great leaps in technology and a terrible toll on our people. America was still considered an isolated country before WWI. It even tried to get back to being that way afterward. But, ever since WWII, we haven't been able to keep ourselves out of another countries business.

So what does this have to do with me? What does this have to do with anybody? The answer is, quite frankly, is a lot. We are where we are today because of what happened that day. We are where we are today because of those two shots. We are where we are today because of the battle of Gettysburg. We are where we are today because of the siege at Yorktown during the Revolution. We, as people, and as a country have been shaped by our extensive and rich history. So, whether we like it or not, history does have a deep importance in our lives and shouldn't just be forgotten.

I know I rambled, but I love that story. It's all thanks to a sandwich you could say.

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