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We are the Donner Party

A friend from Reno, Nevada, US, sent me a copy of a little article on the lessons learned from the “Donner Party.” The Donner’s were a German family who helped organize a wagon train to travel to California 150 years ago. Of the 90 souls who set out to go West about half of them died in the Sierra Nevada Mountains at a place that is called Donner Lake today. The story of the Donner tragedy is very familiar in the Western USA. Some of the party, in order to survive starvation, ate the remains of those who had died.

Frank Mullen, author of the book “The Donner Party Chronicles”, writes: “They were like us because we make the same mistakes. Nothing has really changed. They are us in every way. Their hopes and dreams. Their desire to be heroic. Their ‘watch out for number one’ attitude. In a sense we haven’t learned anything from history. I think we seldom do. We make the same mistakes. We allow the same divisions of class, race, national origin, and wealth to keep us apart. We act the same way, except maybe in a big flood like the one we had in Reno last year, where we saw homeless people filling sand bags beside casinos bosses downtown. But you see it in most cases of adversity in general life and in politics especially, where people blame each other instead of working together.”

“It’s really a human story. And when you see the human personalities in the Donner Party, when you see how people reacted to adversity, you realize you know people like Donner, Reed, Breen, and the others. We really know these people because they haven’t changed much in 150 years. … You see this with environmental problems and what to do with the homeless… Prejudices tend to lump people together and say, ‘Let’s get rid of all of them.’ But there’s something wrong with the logic of that. It doesn’t work.”

Read
the article if you have time.

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