|The Potomac River, from George Washington's Back Yard|
It took the Mayflower 65 days to sail from Leiden to Plymouth, an average speed of around 2 knots. These days you can catch a flight from Logan and be in Schiphol in around 7 hours, less with a tail wind. (The distance is similar, 3,445 miles.) That's an average speed of about 492 miles per hour. A lot faster than in 1620, almost 400 years ago.
Back in George Washington's time, our first President counseled us to avoid foreign entanglements. It was sound advice at the time, we had two vast oceans separating us from Europe and Asia. While those oceans are still there, technology has made them a lot less vast.
My buddy Shaun had an interesting post on Wednesday which made me think. Things these days can seem pretty bad. As an historian (amateur though I am) I see things differently. While there are areas of the world you should avoid, those areas, in my estimation, are fewer than they were not all that long ago.
There have always been areas on the planet where the inhabitants were very xenophobic, often with good reasons. While it would be very dangerous for a Westerner to walk the streets of Mogadishu these days, it's also dangerous to be in certain American neighborhoods at certain times of day.
Now, don't think Detroit after dark if you're white, how about certain upscale neighborhoods at almost any time of day if you're black? It runs both ways.
Now 150 years ago, white or black, you didn't cross the Plains all by your lonesome or with a small group. The natives out that way were pretty annoyed with the newcomers who were starting to overrun their lands as those newcomers were done, for the moment, with slaughtering each other. The post Civil War era saw a lot of folks head west, seeking new lives. The people of the Plains weren't that thrilled to see them. So they killed them when they could.
Go further back in time and let's say you live in Europe. If the local land barons didn't own you and make you work their land for a pittance, they might just scoop you up into their feudal army to go fight some other land baron. Or perhaps it was off to the Holy Lands to fight the heathens.
Go further back in time and you have bands of nomads wandering about, if you had something they wanted, they took it. If you annoyed them, they killed you. Once they had a taste for that kind of thing, well, let's cross the river and see what's up in the next valley. More plunder, more women, horses, cattle, crops? They want it, they take it.
The Mongols, the Huns, the other nomadic tribesmen who were the scourge of their day. Mr. Bad Haircut, the head NORK, had nothing on them. In fact, he's an absolute piker when it comes to folks like Attila and Genghis Khan. Now those guys were real bad asses.
The world is a dangerous place. Always has been, it's easier and faster to get around now too. Which makes avoiding foreign entanglements a lot harder than it was in President Washington's day.
While I remain cautiously optimistic about the future, I do worry. Leaders have miscalculated in the past and gotten their nations into wars which made no sense in the long run.
I continue to hope that cooler heads prevail and that the bullies and lunatics of the world are restrained by those in a position to do so.
Without plunging the planet into more warfare.
Like I said, I remain optimistic, but I find myself praying these days. A lot.
May God have mercy on us all.