The History Rhyme

“Miraculous new communications technologies have suddenly appeared, transforming everyday life. Everything is moving discombobulatingly fast. Globalization accelerates. Wall Street booms. Outside San Francisco, astounding fortunes are made overnight, out of nothing, by plucky nobodies. The new media are scurrilous and partisan. Marketing spin and advertising extend their influence as never before. A fresh urban-youth subculture has emerged, rude and vibrant, entertainment-fixated and violence-glorifying. Christian conservatives are furiously battling cultural decadence, and one popular sect insists that the end days are nigh. Ferocious anti-immigration sentiment is on the rise. Both major American political parties seem pathetically unable to deal with the looming, urgent issue of the day. Insurgents practicing asymmetrical warfare have, practically overnight, threatened to bring down the political order of Western civilization. And the President has tapped into patriotic rage to invade a poor desert country, having dubiously claimed that the enemy nation represents a clear and present military danger to America.”

(see below for attribution)

An editorial comment on the current state of America? A summation of today’s headlines?

No.

The above is an excerpt from an article published by TIME entitled 1848: When America Came of Age. Yes, that’s right – 1848.

Prior to reading this article, I had some trepidation about the relevance of my novel Embracing the Elephant — would anything that  happened in 1848 be of interest to the readers of today?

When America Came of Age was just the item I needed for assurance that my story could still hold sway. My tale begins in 1848: the year about which this article was written. A date long ago but, apparently, not far away.

According to the TIME article, “the way we live now is the way we started to live then.” Our love affair with the American Dream – the craving for instant fame and fortune, the staunch belief in absolute personal liberty, and the imperial drive that was “Manifest Destiny” – came into its own 164 years ago. Perhaps history does not repeat itself, the TIME author speculates, but it certainly rhymes.

In 1848 my characters would have dressed, talked, worked at jobs, lived in abodes, and used tools and weapons that were different from what we have in 2012. However, their emotions, actions, ambitions, attitudes, prejudices, and predispositions are not likely to have been much different from that of their modern counterparts. To create realistic Gold Rush-era people I had only to look around me. Or pick up a newspaper.

I like thinking that Embracing the Elephant may be a little part of the history rhyme.

I wonder if it’s relevant,
This matter of the elephant?
But I will ask no sycophant
For he may tell me lies.

Oh, now I’m just being silly.

About Lori Hart Beninger

Lori Hart Beninger is a native California writer with three critically acclaimed historical novels (Embracing the Elephant, A Veil of Fog and Flames, and A Peculiar Peace) that follow two 19th century young adults as they struggle with survival and acceptance in the pivotal era of the California Gold Rush up to the American Civil War. Please visit www.ontrackpublishing.com for synopses, availability, reviews, and more.
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