Historical Naivete

Riding along through the Texas countryside, I saw lots and lots of political flags, signs, and such. It reminded me of how divided this country is today. I began to reflect on the books I’ve been reading lately, most of which touch on the history of this country, and how there’s always been a lot of cruelty to those who are not in power and a lot of fighting to keep those people “in their places.” I’m referring to pretty much anyone who isn’t a white dude, and preferably a white dude with mostly English background.

All is not lost. I have a nice photo of flowers now, which is revealed when the bathroom door is shut!

Reading about lynchings, realizing that people came to watch them for amusement and sent out postcards of themselves posing with the victims, learning how each new wave of immigrant to the US was treated, and learning how hard men fought to keep women from having the right to own land, sign their own contracts, or vote all have been turning my stomach lately.

At the top are the Germania Hall tokens.

Yesterday it came to life on our own property. The friend who likes to do metal detecting around town came over to investigate the fields behind the Ross property. He found two old pennies, some buckles, some keys and two tokens. These were tokens used as currency at a local dance hall, Germania Hall. It was a big deal at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. How cool, right?

The hall was remodeled in 1914, says the Cameron Herald.

But, it abruptly shut down. Why? Because of the huge wave of intolerance towards German immigrants around World War 1. This is also why Lee’s dad didn’t speak German, though his parents did. My friend Steve, who’s from Indiana, had the same thing happen in his family. Everyone just stopped speaking German.

By the way, parts of Germania Hall were used to construct Weid Hardware in the Dutchtown area of Cameron (Dutch secretly being Deutsch). I would love to know where the hall was, but these newspaper articles never gave addresses. Everyone knew where everything was in the early 1900s!

Cameron Herald article from June 7, 1917, when the hall was still in use.

The US has always been this way. There is always someone who is the enemy or the class viewed as less than human. I just didn’t know this when I was younger! I honestly thought there were very few ignorant and intolerant people, and that society was moving at a brisk pace toward modernism and equality for all. Women could vote! Blacks could drink out of any damn water fountain they wanted to, and went to the same schools as me.

I was way too insulated, and remained so through grad school, when I was in this happy haven of love and equality that I thought applied almost everywhere. I sure was naïve. Plus, I thought that racists, misogynists, etc., were just ignorant, and that if they realized how they were treating other human beings much like themselves, they’d have some big epiphany and stop. Really, Suna? Really?

At least I have a nice, smelly candle to soothe my worried mind.

And get this, I actually thought that surely everyone would want others to have access to health care, a living wage, and a stable, safe place to live. Nope. I totally missed the fact that there is another completely legitimate point of view where everyone is in it for themselves, and only you, your family, and people just like you deserve good things. Everyone else isn’t quite human. Oops. I was a doofus. I may think folks of this midset are worthy of respect and kindness by virtue of being fellow humans, but they don’t think that of me and all us hippies.

And we will always have the love of our dogs, who don’t care one bit about who we like or dislike. These guys were sure glad to see Lee come home yesterday.

Well, I will just wait and see what happens. I’m ready, because I know who I am and like myself. I just wish I had paid a little more attention to actual history, not what I read in watered-down books that universally praised the winners and villified the losers in any conflict. The good news is that with the world being just as it always has been and apparently always will be, people have managed to forge loving relationships, live peaceful lives, and grow spiritually. There are just more ways to do it than I thought in my youth.

Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

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