Friday, December 19, 2008

Andrew Jackson

Yes I'm writing about Andrew Jackson. The reason is that I'm right in the middle of H.W Brands' enormous, yet very readable, biography of Old Hickory.

Some background here- my parents live in Nashville where I went to high school, so I was surrounded by Hickory this, and Jackson that. Even though I lived there longer than anywhere I never really learned much more about Jackson than his part in the Trail of Tears.

Really what I'm getting out of the Brands' very personal narrative about Jackson --as much about the climate of the times he was living in-- is how so many of our decisions are made based upon past experience. I don't mean simply how we learn about what works best in a situation to manage people, but rather, how our entire lives both personal and professional really affect our decisions. (You get a lot out of an HW Brands book because the numerous, constant, highly-detailed tangents to explain an antagonists' point of view.)

We all have some experiences, although hopefully not like Jackson's of being orphaned at 13 and assaulted by British officers, that will influence our entire lives. Some of these experiences will prejudice us toward a certain group or point of view, while others will make us more affectionate to a certain cause or argument. I often try to understand why I might be instantly given to an immediate reaction toward an individual or way of thinking. It usually goes back more to the emotional level rather than the completely rational mind.