By Joe Darby
As we prepare to observe the calendar click over to the year 2019, it occurs to me that our country is maturing — historically, if not politically. It would be nice if the latter were true, but that’s a whole other topic.
What I’m saying is that our nation and our region are starting to put a few years on. As you know, Natchitoches celebrated its 300th anniversary in 1714 and New Orleans is wrapping up its own tricentennial year this month, having been first laid out in 1718.
A few years ago Jamestown, Va., celebrated its 400th anniversary as the first permanent English settlement in what became the United States and in a little more than a year, what I’m sure will be a noted celebration of the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts in 1620 will be observed.
This aging process is certainly notable to someone like me, who’s lived for a few years myself. When I was attending LSU, the nation observed the 100th anniversary of the Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865. Now, the 150th anniversary of that profoundly important conflict is already past. I remember our country’s Bicentennial year in 1976, marking 200 years since the Declaration of Independence. Now, in just seven more years, we’ll be celebrating the 250th anniversary of that pivotal event.
Of course some Europeans or Asians may scoff at the length of our history. “This institution, or that building, of which you’re so proud, is only 200 years old? Why, ordinary buildings in our neighborhood are much older than that,” might be a typical comment. And of course they have a point. In less than 48 years, for example, Britain will observe the 1,000th anniversary of the Norman Conquest, one of the very most important events in European history. A thousand years is a long time, by almost any standard (except for geology, perhaps.)
And it’s also true that Native Americans, or Indians, have been on our shores for many centuries. But with the exception of some of the great Mexican and Central American civilizations, those folks did not keep written records, so it’s impossible to note anniversaries of important events in their histories.
But the point remains, I believe, that the United States, Canada and, yes, Latin America, whose written history goes back to the early 1500s, are slowly accumulating a lengthy history.
What does all this mean? Very little to our everyday lives. But if you are a person who is aware of history and interested in our past, I think it’s kind of neat that as time inevitably goes by, we are no longer rank newcomers to this world civilization of ours.
Before ending I want to take note of an academic trend that irritates me. You’ll notice that more and more in history books, the dating system has been changed from BC and AD, that is Before Christ and Anno Domini, or the Year of Our Lord, to bce and ce. The latter simply stand for before current era and current era,.
This change, of course, is to eliminate the connection of the old dating terms to Christianity. The new terms are nicely neutral, goes their thinking. But by gosh, the dating system is intrinsically tied to the birth of Christ. It was invented by Christianity. That’s what it signifies, doesn’t it?
But, the academics see it as their duty to make everything secularized, and so we have bce and ce. At least they didn’t try to do away with the whole system, as did the anti-church French revolutionaries in the 1790s and start over again at Year 1. I actually have a French coin from that era with the date “An 11,” or Year 11. Thank goodness that didn’t last.
Anyway, Happy New Year to you, my friends and fellow citizens of a maturing nation in this coming Year of Our Lord 2019.