Always Learning From History…

DSC_8553The visit to Mount Vernon cultivated conflicting emotions. I have been thinking about a manner to reconcile the high ideals represented by George Washington with the fact that he was a slave owner. I thought that perhaps, comparing him with other contemporary rulers in Europe, I could somehow justify that owning slaves was not such an offense. It was proven to be a futile attempt, since he was a young landlord in Virginia. Therefore, he inevitable had slaves, even after he retired from political life he kept owning slaves. Trying to save the romanticized view of Washington, I conjured that the matter was unfair in judging the behavior of the Founding Fathers by today’s moral standards. But, that is also a failed argument because among them, unorthodox voices at the time were raised against slavery. Therefore, they were in some manner aware that the continuation of a slave-based economy was morally and ethically wrong. Honestly, this is a fact that undermines the vision that I may have about Mount Vernon.

I discovered that I felt more comfortable looking to the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay and Fort Washington than walking around George Washington properties –– the fortification that protected the access to Washington D.C. from the river Potomac was beautiful. Unfortunately, as many other fortifications, Fort Washington did not deter the British troops to attack the capital, and as many other castles and fortress, it is a silent reminder of past and turbulent times. However, the old fortification evokes the reasons that originated the American-British war of 1812. In a very simple way, the summarized reasons behind the war was the right of the freedom of the seas and the inviolability of a vessel protected by international law. Centuries after the war the same issues caused disputes among countries. That it is the case in the South China Sea, where the U.S. has been involved in a dispute with China about the freedom of the seas. It is a strange paradox that after many years after the 1812 war the U.S. Navy is forced to exert the right to sail free for international waters. Hopefully, the institutional right to enforce the rule of international law –– that America has contributed to create after its blessed intervention in two world wars, and many more minor conflicts –– would help prevail free trade over authoritarian beliefs. I am convinced that mankind learns from its mistakes.

I believe that nations can avoid war and reach agreements peacefully. In the same manner when slavery was banned, and that the British realized that the U.S. was a sovereign country to be respected after the 1812 war, peace in our time and in the times to come will prevail. Fort Washington, also is a remainder of the impressive effort carried out by the early Americans.

The day of our visit, the weather was beautiful. It was a sunny day and also very hot and humid. I could not contemplate the fort and not think about the physical challenge created when constructing this fortification. The hardships suffered by the soldiers that were guarding it must have been very difficult. Virginia’s humidity, the heat, and the fact that any injury or infection –- caused in the battle or by accident –- could be disastrous which only increases my admiration for those brave men.

Meanwhile, at the National Defense University I am still struggling to assimilate the main lesson that I have received. Mainly, as an intern I am writing research papers for my supervisors. My findings are required to be and should be straight to the point and provide a logical conclusion to facilitate an easy discussion and an easier way for my superiors to grasp information at a rapid speed. It is an overwhelming endeavor, because as a political scientist, every fact counts and it is important. Therefore, it is a great challenge to not mention facts and events from a scholar point of view that do not have practical value in the political field. Deciding what is superfluous is an enormous strife, although I understand the need to “go straight to the point.” An example of this could be how to resume X policy of 28 European nations into four lines. I completely understand the need, but as history often teaches us, it requires time and effort to learn new principles and values.

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Fort Washington 1

 

 

 

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