Western History Redux

Photographers shooting pictures from the Civil War memorial statue in front of the Capitol Building. Courtesy Denver Public Library Western History Collection:

The last time I wrote here it was just before the election and I was preparing for a book talk scheduled to take place just afterward. I imagined focussing on the incendiary nature of the campaign, its similarities to 1850s America, and that I would try and introduce a note of reconciliation.

I couldn’t do it.

That night in Lyons there were protests on the tv screens in the restaurant where the talk was held. It was a sizable audience, and I could feel a mix of anger, shock, and exhaustion among them. At the last moment I changed my mind and decided to simply talk about the history such as we understand it, and let people draw their own conclusions. Tones of reconciliation just didn’t feel right that night. They still don’t to me, to be honest.

Since then, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to write a guest blog post at the Denver Public Library’s Western History site. Here, I decided to write about that division in American society, the importance of civil discourse, but also the importance of civil disobedience in the face of injustice.

Really, this is what my novels are all about: when do we speak out? When do we reconcile? Is violence ever the answer?

My emphathy for those living in Territorial Kansas only grows as this decade marches on. I hope we find a way to understand our history so we can learn from it, but it certainly feels like we are repeating much of it just now.