Of all these events in the 20th Century, I remember the last two most clearly. While Ronald Reagan’s “StarWars” Speech in 1983 was inspiring and uplifting (even as I listened to it over the one and only well-functioning TV then extant in the general neighborhood of Chichén Itzá, Yucatán in the lobby of the Hotel Mayaland, though I was living across the street at Edward H. Thompson’s old Hacienda….), James Cameron’s “I’m King of the World” arrogance has always stuck in my mind as the single most obnoxious Academy Award acceptance speech I ever was sufficiently unfortunate as to have listened to (and I listened to that one from Casa del Mar on Seawall & 60th in Galveston, Texas). Now, fortunately, Cameron’s obnoxious speech never really hurt anybody, no matter how much of an anal orifice he proved himself to be.
But, by contrast, Ronald W. Reagan’s Star Wars (aka “Strategic Defense Initiative”) could be called the end of even the MYTH of limited constitutional government in the United States. Reagan on this date announced, authorized, initiated, and launched the most TRULY offensive program of Corporate Welfare in World History, without real immediate consequence but VERY intimidating to the rest of the world. The Strategic Defense Initiative gave Reagan the excuse all neocons wanted to turn his platform of fiscal responsibility and limited government on its head. The greatest irony of Star Wars was that it was such an impractical, impossibly theoretical plan for military development, that the primary beneficiaries were University Communities—where billions and billions in research money were poured into the neighborhoods of places like Harvard University, University of California at Berkeley, the University of Texas, and Stanford, so that (in effect) Reagan bribed all the academics who normally and nominally would have opposed him to support his excesses of spending and enlarging the U.S. Government through the most reckless economic programs ever in World History…. Star Wars, gave a huge boost to the “peri-academic” research communities around Boston Loop 128, Silicon Valley, and along the unimaginatively renamed “Research Boulevard” (Highway 183) in Austin, all of which might have remained stunted or even stillborn without Reagan (the great enemy of Welfare for the Poor) granting open ended credit as welfare to the Rich….
On March 23 in 1919—two major events took place which would shape the 20th Century: the Bolshevik (Soviet Communist) Central Committee or Politburo formed in Moscow, while on the same day Benito Mussolini organized the Fascist Party in Milan, Italy and took the reigns as its leader.
As the memorial of “days that will live in infamy” goes, those were petty benign compared with 30 years earlier when U.S. President Benjamin Harrison opened up Oklahoma to the “Sooners” who lined up at the state borders and raced to stake their claims, thereby closing “the last frontier” in the lower 48 states anyhow (and obliterating the last of even the very modest concessions to the dispossessed Five Civilized Tribes of the American South, 55 years after the Trail of Tears from Georgia & Alabama through Mississippi and Arkansas…. or 1868 when the University of California at Berkeley was founded…. (ok, maybe that date wasn’t all THAT infamous…. but Berkeley for a while was certainly the center of that great Countercultural movement which took place in the 1960s…. from which America and the World have never really recovered….).
March 23 was a great day in Streetcar history (I’m writing this while seated by the window at the Trolley Stop Café at 1923 St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans 70130). In 1937 the Los Angeles Railway Co. started using PCC Streetcars (Presidents’ Conference Committee, replacing the famous old “Red and Yellow Cars” which once defined the Southern California landscape, from the time of Henry E. Huntingdon in 1901—-the LA Railway Co. finally went out of existence in 1958….in the wake of the ecologically and socially disastrous triumph of General Motors and the “car culture”).
But forty years before Huntingdon’s trains started running in Los Angeles, in 1861, London began running its legendary tramcars, designed by the appropriately named “Mr. Train” of New York…. by some transportation history coincidence in 1922 the first airplane landed at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., while the streetcar itself was patented on this date in 1858 by E.A. Gardner of Philadelphia—the first U.S. Patent ever was issued was granted on this date to Joseph G. Pierson for a Riveting Machine….
In 1806 March 23 was the date when Lewis & Clark arrived on the Pacific Coast, the final goal of their epic voyage which began two years earlier in Saint Louis….
On March 23, 1808, Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother, became King of Spain—the Bonapartist dynasty just didn’t last very long, especially in Spain….it was a dud….for better or for worst…
But from the standpoint of this Blog, of Deo Vindice and Tierra Limpia, the most important March 23 in world history was surely 1775, when Patrick Henry declared “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” at Saint John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia.
In terms of musical culture, the highlight of this date was in 1743 when Georg Friedrich Handel’s Messiah premiered in London (a second “premier”—the original performance having been in Dublin, Ireland….). Handel is an inspiration to those of us who aspire to be “late bloomers” in life. In 1743 Handel was 58, five years older than I am now, having been born on 23 February 1685, with only 16 years left to his life (he died on 14 April 1759). To me, Handel’s Messiah is the most inspiring major “operatic” kunstwerk/work of music prior to Wagner’s first “Wagnerian” opera Der Fliegende Hollander which premiered a century later (in Dresden in 1843), even if Handel’s was not “gesammt”. As magnificent, innovative, and stirring as Mozart’s Magic Flute and Don Giovanni surely are, or Beethoven’s symphonies, I think that a real connexion can be made between the compositionally epic scale of the Messiah and Der Ring des Niebelungen, for example, or Wagner’s Grail operas…(Lohengrin, Tannhauser, Tristan und Isolde and Parsifal).