This photo was taken a year ago, but the fraying flag seems to have a different resonance now, given the political winds blowing through our homes and neighborhoods, all across the land.
If there’s any upside to the recent election results here, it’s that many of us are working out new paradigms for being a citizen – and a human being – in these challenging times. Digging deeper for inspiration and information,* and at the same time reaching for the longer view, if you will. Unfortunately (spoiler alert), we’ve been here before. History is replete with profoundly difficult circumstances, no matter the time or culture.
Perhaps not altogether unrelated, I’ve found myself back in the 13th century with Genghis Khan and the beginnings of the Mongol Empire. It started rather innocuously;** my eye catching a new title on display in a local library, “Genghis Khan and the Quest for God” by Jack Weatherford, which explores the remarkable notion that Genghis Khan allowed freedom of worship to all those he conquered, AND that this approach to governance found its way to Europe and eventually the American colonies.
Then it was off to the races with the first three of Conn Iggulden’s five volume work of historical fiction on Genghis and his empire.
And finally the historian Frank McLynn’s amazing biography, Genghis Khan: His Conquests, His Empire and His Legacy, a remarkably detailed and sometimes overwhelming account of the man, with over 100 pages (!!!) of bibliography and footnotes and a wonderful photo of present day Mongolian horsemen by Rick Sammon worked onto the front cover.
Yes there is a rise and fall of civilizations, with remarkably similar stories. Explore any one and you’ll probably understand them all.
* The New Yorker has some suggestions here.
** Actually it started in high school; our athletic teams were nicknamed the “ Golden Horde”. I knew then it had something to do with the Mongols, but only recently understood the specifics: the Golden Horde was the name given to the successors of Genghis that ruled the northwestern most regions of the Mongol empire after his death.