Does Art Imitate Life or Life More Often Imitate Art?


In recent years, several excellent historical drama series have emerged that depict the life and times of ancient peoples and cultures.  We sit back comfortably in our chairs, on our couches, or even lay back on our bed pillows and watch in high definition color on our flat screens as peoples’ thirsts drive them forward at any and all costs in their quests for political and social stature, and even designs of world dominance.  And, whether dramatic art or in the reality of our own world today, we see individuals and groups wrestling for social and political power and world sovereignty.  I’d like to know who was right;  Aristotle, the Greek Philosopher (384 BC – 322 BC), who viewed art as an imitation of life; or the author from Ireland, Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), who believed that life imitates art far more than art imitates life.  These series like The Tudors, Reign, Marco Polo, Medici-Masters of Florence,  Hell on Wheels, The Hatfields and McCoys, West Wing, and House of Cards, in fact, have inspired my subsequent research into the real stories behind them and to root out the naked truths.

In Art – Let’s start with The Tudors:

The Tudors included 38 episodes over four seasons and followed the life of Henry VIII from the time of his crowning until his death. His personal and political struggles and victories.  It also detailed his paranoia, his scandalous life that included many marriages and extramarital affairs, and his changes to the Catholic Church to create the Church of England–all for his own personal benefit.

Next – there was Reign:

Reign ran for four seasons and 78 episodes. Reign followed Mary, the dainty but fierce 15-year-old from Scotland, as she re-entered French court after spending her adolescence at a convent. She was torn between her duty to Scotland and her Scottish family’s political aspirations for her to marry Prince Francis, future King of France; and her blossoming love for this man, Francis, who she was betrothed to as a child and had spent much of her childhood with him as playmates.  Yet, throughout her life, even Mary had to remain ever-vigilant due to social and political threats against her life and crown.

In Reality – Executions at Tower Hill Ordered by British Royalty

What I quickly learned from these historical dramas and my subsequent research is that everyone had to be ever vigilant.  Their harsh realities–there were few who could be trusted loyal friends and many unknown enemies who were more than willing to strike them down in whatever fashion in their attempts to get ahead–and this scenario was especially true among the royals and their “closest” associates!

I found a couple of interesting resources: 1) Capital Punishment UK and 2) British Royal Family History. I used both of them when generating this Google Sheet that covers the “Executions on Tower Hill by English Kings and Queens (1377-1820).” As you can see, it spans nearly 500 years; seven ruling families; and, 18 blue-bloods who decided who amidst them would advance within the royal ranks and who they would execute at their sole discretion because they had in some way become “inconvenient” to them rather than genuine traitors.

The majority of these beheadings were at the behest of royalty and took place at the Tower of London. It is a 900-year-old castle and fortress in central London that is notable for housing the crown jewels and for holding many famous and infamous prisoners.

It seems the history of these beheadings by British Royalty goes back to early medieval England’s Anglo-Saxon times (about  450 A.D. to 1066 A.D.) and that beheading was widely used in Europe and Asia until as recently as the 20th century.  Even today, as barbaric as it is, we still are witness to political-based and/or jihad-inspired beheadings by peoples primarily on the continents of Asia and Africa in places like Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Jordan, Saudi-Arabia, and Boko-Haram.  But among the British Royalty, beheading with a sword or axe was considered a more honorable and less painful form of death than other execution methods used at the time. (And, like hanging, it was a cheap and practical method!)

Throughout its history, the tower was used to imprison a wide range of prisoners, from deposed monarchs to more common criminals. Prisoners included Lady Jane Grey, who was queen for about a week in the 16th century before she was deposed by Mary I.

Also imprisoned there were two princes, Edward and Richard, ages 12 and 9, who were the sons of Edward IV (died 1483). They appear never to have left the tower alive and some thought they were killed by Richard III, their uncle who took the throne for himself.

Another notable prisoner was Guy Fawkes, who in 1605 attempted to blow up the House of Lords and the monarch by detonating gunpowder in the cellars below. He was imprisoned in the tower and tortured.

And, of course, King Henry VIII, one of the more notorious members of the House of Tudor, who ruled for about 38 years.  He had all but 5 his 31 “treasonous” country-men/women beheaded on Tower Hill.  If fact, he imprisoned two of his wives, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard and later executed them. It also was Henry, who turned England into a Protestant country, and in doing so had a number of his dissenting clergymen committed to the tower and later killed, including his former counselor Sir Thomas More.

In all, just within the Tower of London or on an ancient scaffold on Tower Hill, 122 people were put to their deaths–many after also spending torturous times imprisoned within the walls of the Tower.

Of those executed:

  • 94 were beheaded
  • 12 were hanged
  • 11 were hanged and drawn and quartered
  •   3 were killed by firing squad
  •   2 were burned at the stake

You also can see on my google sheet that from the years 1649-1660, that 11-year-period between the reigns of King Charles I and King Charles II, that the British parliament and government ruled the Kingdom, and even then eight persons were beheaded for various “treasonous plots” against the Royals or their armies.  Included among them was British Monarch, Charles I–the only monarch ever to be executed by Parliament, but not in Tower Hill. He was beheaded on Tuesday the 30th of January 1649 on a raised scaffold in front of the Palace of Whitehall. He had been convicted of High Treason and “other crimes” for his activities during the civil war against the Parliamentarians led by Oliver Cromwell. An act of parliament had to be passed to set up a means to try him before a special court composed of Commissioners. The trial began on the 20th of January 1649 and the king refused to recognize the court or to enter a plea. In Charles’ case, the executioner was skilled and managed to sever his head with a single blow–unlike so many others put to their deaths by beheadings and orders of the blue-bloods.

So where does this leave us on the art imitating life or life imitating art question?  I’m not sure I am qualified to say.  If I’m to be honest (like TV personality Simon Cowell often says), we’ve each seen examples of art imitating life and life imitating art.  I guess it’s safe to say it’s like the chicken and the egg story–which came first?

 

 

It’s Graduation Season – Whatever Happened To The Class of ’65?


Paying Homage to a Graduate for a Job Well Done! 

This Sunday, we went with our daughter and two of our teenaged grandchildren to a high school graduation party to honor an outstanding senior from our church family whose parents have every right to be very proud of her scholastic accomplishments, God-given talents and exemplary citizenship skills like: honesty, compassion, respect, responsibility, and courage.  She is entitled to hold her head high because she worked hard and has earned this privilege.  She is one of a select few young people these days who has survived and even thrived despite our badly broken world and need for positive and productive role models.  She aspires to be a civil engineer and leaves home to go out into the world on her own for college in just a short two months.  We wish her much continued success.

Reflecting Back to my Graduating Class of 1965 

Yes, this graduation party for this young prospering person drove me to reflect backwards 52 years to 1965–to my high school days, my friends, our talents and skills, and to our world and aspirations for life when we were 17 and 18 and graduating from high school.

Looking at the changes in our culture, I can readily see

Where our world and society during the last 35 years of the 20th century was definitely experiencing growing pains.  There was:

  • Widespread civil unrest
  • Women were leaving their homes and children to become part of the professional workforce
  • People were unhappy about “an unnecessary war that we didn’t belong in.”
  • There were equal rights movements;
  • More sexual freedom and sexually transmitted diseases
  • Draft card and flag burning demonstrations;
  • Socially acceptable drug use was on the rise;
  • There was rioting in the streets, sit-ins to fight racism and other inequalities;
  • College kids shooting other college kids on campuses.
  • And, yes, the Selective Service Act of May 18, 1917, was active.  Kids straight out of high school were drafted and within a few short weeks after graduation sent to Asia as soldiers to fight a war that many Americans didn’t understand.

Today’s youth are in the midst of a culture that includes:

  • Different family structures; many are broken or more dysfunctional;
  • Increased lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender freedoms have some youth confused
  • Sedentary, isolated youth have become obese because of their fast-paced, fast foods lifestyles and addictions to today’s electronic devices;
  • A society that promotes materialism where youth are taught by example to measure their successes and happiness in life by how much stuff they have;
  • Alcohol and drug abuse are at crisis levels;
  • Youth having to deal with adult issues far too early in their lives;
  • Bullying, shootings, stabbings, fighting, suicides, and gangs–all begin as early as elementary school;
  • Today’s kids stress over schedules where their time is over-committed–they are involved in competing activities, while feeling the need to succeed in all areas of their lives;
  • Differentiation between “good” and “bad” or “real” and “fake”news is difficult to discern with all the media spins and political mudslinging in today’s world?
  • And, quite frankly, too many Americans are simply overworked, underpaid, and isolated from the rest of the world and from each other, chasing pipe dreams that may never come true, while ignoring other priorities in their lives.

So you decide.  Were our twentieth century times safer, easier, or better than those of teenagers graduating today, or were they just different or equally challenging?

In many respects, all people’s lives are more chaotic, stressful, and plainly more difficult than in the 1960’s just because of readily available media and technology; and more global awareness of, and differences in and interactions between economies, social, and governing cultures.

Yet, still preying heavy on my heart and mind are my family, friends, and fellow classmates who went straight from graduating high school into a war torn country over 8,000 miles away–many of whom had never been away from home before.  And many who didn’t understand and didn’t volunteer to serve, but rather, they were drafted.  And, too many who gave their all only to never return home again.  And all who gave some, including those who suffered physical wounds, loss of sight or limbs, and even their minds and/or peace of minds from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  As Civil War Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, first said “War is hell.”

Findings About PTSD From the 2015 National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study

Approximately 271,000 Vietnam theater veterans have current full PTSD plus subthreshold war-zone PTSD, one-third of whom have current major depressive disorder, 42 or more years after the war. These findings underscore the need for mental health services for many decades for veterans with PTSD symptoms.

The following video was made from the song titled “19,” and published in 1985 (20 years after the fighting began in what is now known as the Vietnam War).  It was written by: Paul Hardcastle, William D. Couturie, Michael Gordon Oldfield, and Jonas Mccord.

 The lyrics follow and perfectly depict those times and sentiments: 

In 1965, Vietnam seemed like just another foreign war but it wasn’t . . .
It was different in many ways, as so were those that did the fighting
In World War II the average age of the combat soldier was 26
In Vietnam he was 19
In-in-in Vietnam he was 19
The shooting and fighting of the past two weeks continued today
25 miles west of Saigon
I really wasn’t sure what was going on
Ni-ni-ni 19, 19, ni-19 19In Vietnam the combat soldier typically served
A twelve month tour of duty
But was exposed to hostile fire almost everyday
Ni-ni-ni 19, Ni-ni-ni 19
Hundreds of thousands of men who saw heavy combat
In Vietnam were arrested since discharge
Their arrest rate is almost twice that of non-veterans of the same age
There are no accurate figures of how many of these men
Have been incarcerated
But a Veterans Administration study
Concludes that the greater of vets
Exposure to combat the more likely it could affect his chances
Of being arrested or convictedThis is one legacy of the Vietnam WarAll those who remember the war
They won’t forget what they’ve seen
Destruction of men in their prime
Whose average was 19De-de-destruction
De-de-destruction
War, warDe-de-destruction, wa, wa, war, wa, war, war
De-de-destruction
War, warAfter World War II the men came home together on troop ships
But the Vietnam vet often arrived home within 48 hours of jungle combat
Perhaps the most dramatic difference between
World War II and Vietnam was coming home
None of them received a hero’s welcomeNone of them received a heroes welcome, none of them, none of them
Ne-ne-ne, ne-ne-ne, none of them, none of them, none of them
None of them received a hero’s welcome
None of them received a hero’s welcome

According to a Veteran’s Administration study
Half of the Vietnam combat veterans suffered from what
Psychiatrists call
Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder

Many vets complain of alienation, rage or guilt
Some succumb to suicidal thoughts
Eight to ten years after coming home
Almost eight hundred thousand men are still fighting the Vietnam War

De-de-destruction
Ni-ni-ni 19, 19, ni19 19
Ni-ni-ni 19, 19, ni-19 19

When we came back it was different, everybody wants to know
“How’d it happened to those guys over there?
There’s gotta be something wrong somewhere
We did what we had to do

There’s gotta be something wrong somewhere
People wanted us to be ashamed of what it made us
Dad had no idea what he went to fight and he is now
All we want to do is come home

All we want to do is come home
What did we do it for?
All we want to do is come home
Was it worth it

America’s Wars: U.S. Casualties and Veterans

The table below has information about the total number of service members, battle deaths, and non-mortal woundings in wars from 1775 to 2012; such as the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War I and II, Vietnam, and more.

American Revolution (1775-1783)
Total servicemembers 217,000
Battle deaths 4,435
Nonmortal woundings 6,188
War of 1812 (1812-1815)
Total servicemembers 286,730
Battle deaths 2,260
Nonmortal woundings 4,505
Indian Wars (approx. 1817-1898)
Total servicemembers 106,0001
Battle deaths 1,0001
Mexican War (1846-1848)
Total servicemembers 78,718
Battle deaths 1,733
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 11,550
Nonmortal woundings 4,152
Civil War (1861-1865)
Total servicemembers (Union) 2,213,363
Battle deaths (Union) 140,414
Other deaths in service (nontheater) (Union) 224,097
Nonmortal woundings (Union) 281,881
Total servicemembers (Conf.) 1,050,000
Battle deaths (Conf.) 74,524
Other deaths in service (nontheater) (Conf.) 59,2972
Nonmortal woundings (Conf.) unknown
Spanish-American War (1898-1902)
Total servicemembers 306,760
Battle deaths 385
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 2,061
Nonmortal woundings 1,662
World War I (1917-1918)3
Total servicemembers 4,734,991
Battle deaths 53,402
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 63,114
Nonmortal woundings 204,002
Living veterans 0
World War II (1940-1945)3
Total servicemembers 16,112,566
Battle deaths 291,557
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 113,842
Nonmortal woundings 671,846
Living veterans 1,711,0001
Korean War (1950-1953)
Total servicemembers 5,720,000
Serving in-theater 1,789,000
Battle deaths 33,739
Other deaths in service (theater) 2,835
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 17,672
Nonmortal woundings 103,284
Living veterans 2,275,000
Vietnam War (1964-1975)
Total servicemembers 8,744,000
Serving in-theater 3,403,000
Battle deaths 47,434
Other deaths in service (theater) 10,786
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 32,000
Nonmortal woundings 153,303
Living veterans 7,391,0001,6
Gulf War (1990-1991)
Total servicemembers 2,322,000
Serving in-theater 694,550
Battle deaths 148
Other deaths in service (theater) 235
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 1,565
Nonmortal woundings 467
Living veterans 2,244,5831,6
America’s Wars Total (1775–1991)
Military service during war 41,892,128
Battle deaths 651,031
Other deaths in service (theater) 308,800
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 230,254
Nonmortal woundings 1,430,290
Living war veterans 16,962,0004
Living veterans 23,234,000
Global War on Terror 5
Total Servicemembers (Worldwide) (as of Sept. 2011) 1,468,364
Deployed to Iraq (Operation New Dawn) (as of Dec. 31, 2011) 0
Deployed to Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom) (as of June 2011) 45,000
Battle Deaths 5,078
Other Deaths (In Theater) 1,378
Non-mortal Woundings 48,104
1. Estimate based upon new population projection methodology.
2. Estimated figure. Does not include 26,000-31,000 who died in Union prisons.
3. Years of U.S. involvement in war.
4. Total will be more than sum of conflicts due to no “end date” established for Persian Gulf War.
5. October 7, 2001 through May 29, 2012 (unless otherwise indicated). Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation New Dawn.
6. Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) estimate, as of 4/09, does not include those still on active duty and may include veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Source: Department of Defense and Veterans Administration.

See also Post-Vietnam Combat Casualties.