When I was growing up in a banana plantation in the middle of nowhere called Changuinola, we didn’t have all the juggernauts of today’s modern technology. Radio sets were clumsy big boxes with hot vacuum tubes. There were no calculators, portable radios, television sets, cellphones, iPods, MP3s and so forth. It was a totally different world.
With the invention of the personal computer plugged into the Internet, we plunged into a universe of knowledge never seen in the history of civilization. With just the click of a button, anything you need to know is only milliseconds away. You name it, it’s there.
I owned my first computer in 1985. It was an Apple II-e, and ever since, I’ve been enamored with this marvelous device which can do just about anything, including talking. Over the years, I learned how to use spreadsheets, data bases, word processors, compose e-mails, design business forms, organize my finances and the list goes on and on.
Snapshot of a normal keyboard of my desktop HP computer and the corner of my latest acquisition; a Sony Vaio laptop with its corresponding wireless mouse. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Four years ago I retired at the age of 62. This wise decision has provided me with enough time to do just about anything I want. The first thing I did was to get rid of my watch. For too many years it was my tyrant. I had to do this at 3 o’clock, that at 4:30 p.m., meet with Mr. X at 8 o’clock sharp, and so on and so forth. I was a slave of time. It was a rat race which ate much of my productive life. My recent retirement is bringing back part of that time which had been snatched away from me.
I’m now investing this precious time studying; using the information box as my conduit to the vast silos of information stored in the Cloud. Netflix is an endless source of information. Through documentaries and films I’m learning about the evolution of man in History. I’m concentrating in American politics.
Having studied in an American school since I was six, I had a general knowledge of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ulysses S. Grants and other great American presidents. But it was general knowledge blurred and undefined like the morning mist. Now I want to know more about how the fabric of democracy is woven by the American people. So far I’ve studied the accomplishments of the following American presidents through my Netflix subscription:
- American Experience: Truman
- Dwight D. Eisenhower: Commander-in-Chief
- American Experience—PBS: Nixon
- American Experience—PBS: FDR
- American Experience—PBS: LBJ
- American Experience—PBS: Jimmy Carter
- American Experience—PBS: Reagan
- LBJ: The Early Years
- The Trials of Henry Kissinger
- Jefferson in Paris
- Inside the White House
- Front Line: The Obama’s War
- Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story
- Landslide: A Portrait of President Hoover
- Client 9: Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer
- FDR: Years of Crisis
- Nancy Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime
Lifting the curtain on American politics is fascinating, in search of a better word to describe the experience. America embraced Democracy in its infancy—1776. It squeezed out the precepts of a democracy from European philosophers such as Rousseau, Montesquieu, Diderot, Voltaire, Locke, d’Alembert, and others, and stirred the pot with the political theories of Ancient Greece analyzed by Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Cleisthenes, Pisistratus, Isagoras and Hippias. Out of this historic potpourri of political knowledge, emerged the American democracy within thirteen colonies in a geographical area called New England. It soon spread across the pond to France provoking the French Revolution in 1789.
Over the years, the American concept of democracy has influenced many societies around the globe. The Thirteen colonies became the beacon of democracy which started with the Greek city-state known as polis, where the citizens voted in the city’s public square—agora— using white pebbles to vote Yes, and black pebbles to vote No. To this very day, our modern societies express themselves through the universal vote, only this time we use paper or electrons.
After the Second Word War, the United States assisted Europe to recover from the devastation of the war with the Marshall Plan—officially known as the European Recovery Program, ERP—, the reconstruction of Japan under the leadership of General Douglas MacArthur and the independence of the Philippines after the Treaty of Manila on July 4, 1946.
Harry S. Truman oversaw the Berlin Airlift in 1948 and the creation of NATO in 1949. When communist North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, he immediately sent in U.S. troops and gained UN approval for the Korean War. It was this remarkable president who shortly after taking the oath of office said to reporters:
“Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don’t know if you fellas ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me what happened yesterday, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.”
In the film, Memorial Day, a soldier from the Second World War (James Cromwell) told his grandson: “People wonder if leaders are born or made. All I know is, you can see it in a man’s eyes. Problem is, leaders end up where they’re needed most. And, eventually, that’s war.”
Snapshot of my Sony Vaio laptop showing a film about the Cuban revolutionary Ernesto “Ché” Guevara streamed from Netflix. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
If you can spare the time, and own a computer with an Internet connection, I can’t emphasize enough how much juice you can extract from this magic box. My next subject will be the story of the Iraqi war and how it compares with the Vietnam and the Afghanistan War. Good Day.
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