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National Park Service’s 100th anniversary in US: Adventurer Mikah Meyer Opts for Historic Cross-Country Trek in America
Sept 19, 2016: In celebration of the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary this year, adventurer Mikah Meyer is travelling across America with the goal of visiting every one of the more than 400 sites within its jurisdiction.
The young traveller set out from Washington, D.C., in June and has already experienced dozens of sites. And VOA has been following him every step of the way.
He recently wrapped up visits to three national parks… a historic battlefield, a peace memorial and a U.S. presidential home with a famous front porch. All three sites, connected by history, gave Mikah a rare window into America during the 1800s.
The War of 1812 – a short history
In a military conflict that is often referred to as America’s second war of independence against the British, there were no declared winners. But despite humiliating losses for the U.S., especially when the British captured and set fire to much of Washington, including the U.S. Capitol building and the White House, the Americans at the time believed they won the war… and with good reason.
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They had successfully defended their sovereignty against British aggression, British capture of American seamen and British incitement and support of Native American attacks on U.S. citizens along the Northwest frontier. The Royal British navy was shocked by a number defeats at sea in ship-to-ship battles with American frigates.
And the British suffered humiliating losses in the battle of New Orleans, where its army experienced one of its worst defeats in history – at the hands of mostly untrained American volunteers which included blacks and Native Americans.
The war also secured American’s westward expansion – something Britain and Spain were desperately trying to stop.
Ultimately Britain, the world’s foremost military superpower, was forced to settle for a negotiated peace without any territorial concessions. The two sides eventually wound down the war with the signing of a peace treaty in Ghent, Belgium, on December 24, 1814.
Native American defeat
The biggest losers of the war of 1812 were Native Americans, who had aligned themselves with the British to defend their territories.
During the two-year and eight-month-long conflict, they lost their revered Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, who had formed a confederation of tribes to block American expansion into their territories.
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They also lost the sovereignty of their lands in the “Old Northwest” – territory that included the modern states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and the northeastern part of Minnesota.
The River Raisin National Battlefield Park in Monroe, Michigan, commemorates a series of battles that took place there in the winter of 2013 when it was known as Frenchtown, Michigan.
From January 18–23, the north bank of the River Raisin became a battleground where the Americans and the British fought for control of Michigan and the Lower Great Lakes, and – some say – for the future of Frenchtown, Canada, and Tecumseh’s alliance of Native American tribes. The battles ended with a decisive victory for the British and the indigenous tribes. It took about nine months for U.S. forces to regain their momentum.
Encompassing about 30 hectares (76 acres), River Raisin is one of four national battlefield parks within the national park system and the only one that focuses on the War of 1812.
Atrocities committed on all sides
Mikah said his main takeaway from his experience there was how openly and fairly the National Park Service has handled a battle site where “all sides committed atrocities, including the United States.”
“Usually we talk about ourselves only as the good guys and everything we did was as heroes,” he said. “But they really acknowledge that every side did some really nasty things to each other and they want to make sure that they are telling all those sides of stories.”
To make his point, he gave the example of a painting on display there that depicts Native Americans scalping Americans, which he described as “propaganda by the U.S.”
“It was Native Americans scalping Americans but they were holding knives and whisky that was labelled with labels from Britain, so the idea was to try to incite the rest of America into being angry at the British because the British had enlisted the natives to fight for them.”
Mikah got a tour from a park ranger, who told him he had to be careful about his description of the park’s history, “depending on who is visiting – if it’s a native person, if it’s a Canadian or Brit, [Canada was part of the British colony then] or if it’s somebody from the U.S. – because people can get really offended.”
“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, so it depends on who’s hearing the story,” the ranger added.
“Remember the Raisin!” became a popular rallying cry during the War of 1812 after the battles in River Raisin. The aftermath of the forced removal of Native Americans from the Northwest Territory at the conclusion of the war continues to influence the United States today.
Battle of Lake Erie
A major turning point in the war came on September 10, 1813, when U.S. Captain Oliver Hazard Perry led a fleet of nine American ships to a victorious battle over six British warships on Lake Erie off the coast of Ohio.
It is considered one of the biggest naval battles of the War of 1812.
By winning control of the lake, the Americans were able to cut off British forces, and their Native American allies, from their supply base. It also allowed the Americans to gain control of the Northwest Territory, recover the city of Detroit, which had fallen into British hands, and kill Tecumseh.
Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial in Put-in-Bay, Ohio, was established to honor those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie, sometimes referred to as the Battle of Put-in-Bay.
Mikah pointed out that the focus of the historic site is not to commemorate the battle itself, but “to celebrate the long-lasting peace among Britain, Canada and the U.S. that still endures,” and also the world’s longest undefended border, about 6,400 kilometers (4,000 miles).
“The whole town – and all around the island – they have American flags and British flags, local flags and peace flags,” he said. “So I think as a community, they’ve really taken on this idea of representing this peace that has been lasting since the Treaty of Ghent.”
“Don’t give up the ship”
During his visit to the Peace Memorial, Mikah noticed the recurring phrase “Don’t give up the ship!” posted in various forms throughout the town of Put-in-Bay.
“That was their battle cry,” he explained. “Because the U.S. had nine ships and the British had six – the U.S. lost their flagship right away – the Lawrence – and then ended up transferring the flag over to the Niagara to finish the battle and basically it was this idea of don’t lose this battle.”
A fitting symbol
The park’s centerpiece, a Doric column rising 107 meters (352 feet) over Lake Erie, stands about eight kilometers (five miles) from the U.S.-Canadian border.
The pillar “is the tallest open-air observation deck in the entire national park system,” Mikah noted, “even taller than the Statue of Liberty.”
It is a fitting tribute, Mikah observed, “that at the base of that peace memorial there are three American sailors and three British sailors buried together in the crypt.”
A two-hour drive along the lakeshore from Put-in-Bay is Mentor, Ohio, home of James Abram Garfield, the 20th President of the United States, who served from March 4, 1881, until his assassination later that year.
His home, at the James A. Garfield National Historic Site, stands on what remains of the President’s 65-hectare (160-acre) farm, which includes a Visitor Center in a restored carriage barn built in 1894, a windmill and other buildings.
The most interesting part of Mikah’s visit was learning how hard the National Park Service worked to make the interior appear as it would have when the president actually lived there.
Mikah said there had been many changes made to it both during and after Garfield’s life, and he thought the park service did a “fantastic” job of recreating the rooms to their original state.
“So from that perspective, it was the best-maintained and the best-preserved house site that I’ve been to this whole trip,” he said.
What Mikah also found interesting was Garfield’s “Birth-of-the-front-porch” campaign. In 1880, he would greet thousands of well-wishers during his presidential campaign as they stopped by his front porch.
“That’s because the train let out in the backyard of his farm, so people would get off the train and they would walk to his front yard and they would set up camp, they’d put up tents and wait for the next day to hear him speak on his front porch.”
Mikah remarked how unlikely that scenario would be in today’s presidential campaigns!
In the coming days, Mikah will be visiting Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site in Buffalo, New York and Niagara Falls, which is not part of the US National Park Service, but will make a fascinating story nonetheless.
To follow Mikah and learn more about the places he’s travelling to, he invites you to visit him on his website. (VOA)
"In India, to be born as a man is a crime, to question a woman is an atrocious crime, and this all because of those women who keep suppressing men in the name of feminism."
Feminism, a worldwide movement that started to establish, define and defend equal rights for women in all sections- economically, politically, and socially. India, being a patriarchal society gives a gender advantage to the men in the society thus, Indian feminists sought to fight against the culture-specific issue for women in India. Feminism itself is nothing but a simple movement that pursues equal rights for women (including transwomen) and against misogyny both external and internal. It states nowhere that women should get more wages than men, that women deserve more respect than men, that's pseudo-feminism.
Pseudo feminists state that women deserve more respect and rights, any other gender deserves no respect. They feel that women should be the ones ruling the world and at higher positions. When feminism takes a turn for extremities it becomes pseudo-feminism and people who label themselves as feminists will bash anyone who speaks against even the wrongdoings of a woman. They'll bash women who're wife and sisters for not speaking up and support any women criticizing political leaders even if it's completely irrational. This is where hypocrisy and pseudo-feminism merge with each other.
They take advantage of the rights given to women to protect themselves to threaten other genders. The rights given to women are supposed to make them feel reassured that they can reach out to the judiciary if their rights are being hampered not to threaten to make the victim sound like the culprit.
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Indian Feminist Movement has made significant progress however, even in the modern world women are still unsafe and are discriminated against when it comes to getting a job, land ownership, and access to education. While filling the official papers it is still asked "Wife of /Daughter of:….."
People in India still continue the practice of sex-selective abortion, abandoning the girl child, not letting girl child study instead they should learn household chores, they are seen as a burden to the family. Such injustices make feminism such an important movement, gender equality is worth fighting for to create a safe environment for women. Feminists over the years have been criticized for focusing on the rights of privileged women and not giving equal representation to poorer and lower caste women, which has led to separate caste-specific feminist organizations and movements.
Some notable milestones in the Feminist Movement
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy campaigned against Sati Pratha (practice in which a widow sacrificed herself by sitting atop her deceased husband's funeral pyre) and child marriage
- Savitribai Phule started the first school for girls at Bhidewada in Pune city in 1848.
- In 1972, SEWA, the biggest trade union for women was set up by Ela Bhatt for women working in the informal sector.
- The Chipko Movement was launched and led by women in 1973.
- #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and abuse was started in 2006 and revived in the year 2015.
People in India still continue the practice of sex-selective abortion, abandoning the girl child, not letting girl child study instead they should learn household chores, they are seen as a burden to the family.Unsplash
Feminism is often misunderstood as pseudo-feminism and hence, becomes the target for public hatred and is accused of wronging other genders under the façade of feminism. It is misunderstood by Indians as female domination instead of gender equality. Indian society and Indian feminists believe that only men are perpetrators of a heinous crime like rape and they refuse to even recognize the men who say they were raped and it's the toxic masculinity in the society that believes how can a woman rape a man? Reality is different from what we believe, women can be the perpetrator too, women threaten to file a case of domestic violence, or sexual assault against innocent people just to fulfill their ego.
Thankfully feminism and pseudo feminism are two separate concepts and feminism is just about equality and not judgment. Indian society and feminists actually need to understand the difference between the two and stop tarnishing the Feminist Movement as a whole.
Keywords: Feminism, World, India, Pseudo-Feminism, Gender
Kerala is a land of many good things. It has an abundance of nature, culture, art, and food. It is also a place of legend and myth, and is known for its popular folklore, the legend of Yakshi. This is not a popular tale outside the state, but it is common knowledge for travellers, especially those who fare through forests at night.
The legend of the yakshi is believed to be India's equivalent of the Romanian Dracula, except of course, the Yakshi is a female. Many Malayalis believe that the Yakshi wears a white saree and had long hair. She has a particular fragrance, which is believed to be the fragrance of the Indian devil-tree flowers. She seduces travellers with her beauty, and kills them brutally.
Yakshi idol in Veroor, Sri Dharamashastha temple Image source: wikimedia commons
The Yakshi is believed to live in a palm tree which can appear like a palace. Victims are taken here before they are killed. Travellers on highways are often advised not to stop near heavily forested areas, or speak to anyone who closely resembles a Yakshi. Some believe she can change form, while other hold to the belief that she doesn't. after securing her victim, the only trace left behind is body parts like hair, nails, and teeth.
They say, like other ghosts, a Yakshi's feet will not touch the ground. This is something to look out for. Mysterious deaths have been reported across the rural areas in Kerala, and all these have been attributed to the legend.
Keywords: Legends, Yakshi, Urban legend, Ghost, Kerala, Myth, Vampire
The LGBTQ+ acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and others. In India LGBTQ+ community also include a specific social group, part religious cult, and part caste: the Hijras. They are culturally defined either as "neither men nor women" or as men who become women by adopting women's dress and behavior. Section 377 of the India Penal code that criminalized all sexual acts "against the order of nature" i.e. engaging in oral sex or anal sex along with other homosexual activities were against the law, ripping homosexual people off of their basic human rights. Thus, the Indian Supreme Court ruled a portion of Section 377 unconstitutional on 6th September 2018.
But the question is, "was India always against homosexuality"? Has the concept of homosexuality being unnatural existed forever? No, in Indian history and Hinduism homosexuality has never been an offense, in fact in several instances it has been depicted how people embraced their identity, be it sexual identity or gender identity. Section 377 was brought to India by the British in 1862, while India was colonized. Even after the Independence, it was only in 2018 that the Supreme Court ruled it as irrational and illogical.
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Homosexuality in Ancient India
When Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality in India, there was an uproar about it being a western ideology and liberalism. But in reality, homosexuality has existed since the time of the Vedas. The Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association (GALVA) researched and discovered that it was around 3102 B.C. (during the Vedic Age) that homosexuality or non-normative sexual identity was recognized as "Tritiya Prakriti", or the third nature. Ancient India not only made mentions of homosexuality but accepted it as well.
Hinduism is the most vastly followed religion in India. Hinduism does not explicitly mention homosexuality however it does contain a homosexual theme and characters in its text. There have been various instances in our scriptures and texts that have introduced us to LGBT+ characters such as the androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati Ardhanariswara meaning "the half-female lord". One of the most popular and ancient texts on sexuality, eroticism, and emotional fulfillment of life, "Kamasutra" has a complete chapter dedicated to homosexuality and homosexual sex. Numerous Hindu sculptures and temples have statues depicting homosexual activities.
Numerous Hindu sculptures and temples have statues depicting homosexual activities. Facebook
Our Mughals were Queer
Mughals are often seen under the light of cruelty, rigid ethics, nobility, and polygamy. Simultaneously, Mughals are also the ones credited for the emergence of Sufism, abolished jizya tax, love beyond religion, classes, and gender.
In the Baburnama written in memoirs of our very first Mughal ruler Muhammad Babur, several instances documented Babur's infatuation and affection towards a teenage boy named Baburi. We also have multiple Persian couplets as evidence of Babur's affection for Baburi. Mughals engaged in homosexuality and pederasty, and they believed that later was a form of "pure love".
But as time passed homosexuality was suppressed more and more though people practiced it in secret if revealed they were punished. According to the Fatwa-e-Alamgiri Sharia-based text of the Mughal Empire, there is a common set of punishments for homosexuality, which could include 50 lashes for a slave, 100 for a free infidel, or death by stoning for a Muslim.
British Raj and Independence of India
In 1862, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalized homosexual sex came into force. Even after Independence in 1947, the section remained a part of the Indian Constitution. There were protests all over the country to give people of the LGBT+ community basic human rights but it was not until 2018 that The Supreme Court of India ruled the portion of Section 377 has unconstitutional and struck it off. One judge said the landmark decision would "pave the way for a better future.". With Section 377 gone are LGBT+ people allowed to fall in love freely? No, people are still afraid to love because of the stigma in our society when it comes to homosexuality; they are seen as lesser humans.
ALSO READ: Significant Support for Rights for LGBTQ+
Although the Supreme Court has decriminalized homosexual activities, same-sex marriage remains illegal in the country. Homophobia is still prevalent in India, and homosexual children would rather commit suicide than come out to society with their true identity, that's how harsh of a world we live in. Lacking support from family, society, or police, many gay rape victims do not report the crimes. In 1977, writer and Indian mathematician Shakuntla Devi published "The World of Homosexuals". It was the first study in the Indian context; the book contains interviews with homosexual men set in the years of Emergency. She wrote, "rather than pretending that homosexuals don't exist it is time we face the facts squarely in the eye and find room for homosexual people." We've had small victories in our fight against homophobia and getting LGBT+ community the rights they deserve as humans, but we still have a long and exhausting fight ahead of us.