March 4

Kage Baker was a firm believer in the axiom that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Although, to be honest, she felt that even being informed merely lessened your chances of being victimized by precisely the same misfortune or asininity that had done for your ancestors.

There are only so many ways for people to improve society on a short term basis, Kage said, and most people are too lazy to implement them. If you declared pogroms on the financial caste in your government, because you resented their success, odds are the habit would continue until your economy collapsed in self-righteous ignorance. Spain started it, but in fact European countries kept it up until the middle of the 20th century. That’s one the reasons, she maintained, that Spain didn’t enter the Renaissance until General Franco died …

Mind you, that never discouraged her from pursuing her duties as a franchise holder. She always worked hard to know what the issues were, make an informed decision, and do what she could to move us on out of the ignorance of the past.

Today is March the 4th. It’s been the occasion for a lot of silly jokes about marching forth: which I swear I never thought of before today, but have seen six or seven lame examples of this morning. Eeek, people: get a life. Marching forth is not such a great idea in this day and age. A lot of problems could be lessened by doing less of it, or at least applying a little more thought and decent philosophy to those things for which we do march forth.

More importantly, today is the anniversary of the first peaceful exchange of power in modern times between elected national officials: John Adams succeeded George Washington. And no one died! I am sure that various Guild leaders and militia captains had managed it prior to this all over the world (not so sure about Ladies’ Altar Societies, which tend toward bloodthirstiness) but on the scale of an entire country, this was the first time.

That is a great and grand thing to commemorate. It’s also amazing and splendid to realize that for over 200 years – despite name calling, stone-throwing, voter fraud, candidate fraud and other assorted scabby practices – we’ve kept it up. In the United States, the old President does not have to die when the new one takes the Oath of Office.

Some years, like this one, it appears this will be our only concession to acting like a grown-up country. But, by all the gods and goddesses, we do it. Under our national hysteria runs a deep and still unsullied stream of strength and common sense, and it tends to manifest just when we need it.

I’ve slept away most of this lovely weekend, depressed as hell by the political insanity on the airwaves. I ought to stop paying attention – but politics is a grownup’s game and responsibility, and I cannot bring myself to rest easy in ignorance. Just when I am ready to give up and relocate to some area of the British Commonwealth, though, an anniversary like this one comes along.Which helps.

I can look back at all the elections that did not litter the Capitol steps with bleeding victims, all the inaugurations not enhanced by the victor holding the loser’s bloodied head up to the cheering crowds. It makes me feel better.It makes me feel we got something right more than once.

We may not manage to avoid repeating all our history, Dear Readers, but it’s enormously hopeful to realize that some of it should be repeated. That’s why Kage never gave up, but voted every chance she got; why she stayed informed and contributed her mite to the democratic process.

It’s just a damned good idea.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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3 Responses to March 4

  1. I too have looked at a few inaugurations in my life and at some point realized that that was not the usual way of doing it in other countries. Those tanks and marching troops weren’t there for pomp and circumstances as we had them. They were there to secure the government for or wrest it away from the previous incumbent. That the sound of artillery we heard was not fired in salute. A wonder.


  2. I know we have a right to be fairly proud of ourselves for this, but we really aren’t unique in this, and haven’t been for quite some time. The transition from Washington to Adams was certainly novel for a country created by a revolution–which was already pretty much unique. But we had a model in England, after all. And others have taken that example since. We’re only 236 years old, just a baby as countries go. We don’t want to get cocky.


    • Kate says:

      We were, I believe, the first to accomplish a peaceful handover of power between elected officials – which were pretty thin on the ground at the national level at that time. And while we are only 263 years old now, we have an unbroken record so far, which I think is also pretty unique. As for others joining us in the custom: good, the more the merrier! It’s a good thing to have going. I like being proud of my country from time to time, and I don’t think it’s cockiness. As Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.”



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