Have We Learned Nothing?

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  —George Santayana

I’ve got news for Mr. Santayana: we’re doomed to repeat the past no matter what. That’s what it is to be alive.”
― Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Today I’m listening to my news podcasts and these are the stories:

1) We march closer to the possibility of nuclear war with North Korea.

2) Congress is trying to repeal the board that Elizabeth Warren helped set up before she was a senator.

3) The nation is arguing about Donald Trump’s tweets about kneeling in the NFL.

4) Donald Trump tweeted about an Iranian missile program which is “fake news” (aka not true. The incident didn’t happen.) and angered the Iranians.

5) Ken Burns is doing a PBS documentary on the Vietnam War

6) 60 years ago, Eisenhower (a Republican) sent the military to Little Rock, Arkansas so that 9 little Black kids could go to school with their White counterparts.

 

Historically,

  1. We’ve seen what nuclear war could do. When we dropped bombs on Hiroshima and later on Nagasaki, Japan, we destroyed everything for miles. According to one report, The two bombings … killed at least 129,000 people. Just two bombs and at least half of that number simply evaporated. Others had burns that killed them shortly thereafter, others died of radiation sickness weeks or months later.  Radiation from tests of these types of bombs stayed in the wind over the entire earth for some period of time.  We blew the bombs up over there and the radiation came here.  But that’s just tests.                                                                                                 Most of my childhood was spent trying to walk the Russians (then the U.S.S.R.) back from the brink of nuclear war under a thing called “The MAD doctrine”, which meant having seen what nuclear bombs could do, we could keep that from happening because it meant Mutually Assured Destruction — everybody would die, because we now had enough bombs to destroy the entire earth over and over.  Apparently, our government now doesn’t think the MAD doctrine isn’t valid anymore. I don’t know that the science has changed all that much. I’m pretty sure that people will die if nuclear weapons are used, and they will die the same way they did before, but the bombs are bigger and there are more of them.  As they said in a movie from my teen years, “The only way to win a nuclear war is to not play”.

 

2.  In what has to be the most short-sighted mistake ever made, because it’s so  close   in time… banks and Wall St. caused “the great recession” at the end of the Bush era and were rescued by Obama in the beginning of his term.  At that point, it wasn’t at all uncommon to have a “$35.00 cup of coffee” if your debit card overdrew and the bank charged you a fee for it. People lost their savings, their pensions, their houses, and their employment because of it.  Now Senator Warren — then a private citizen — helped to prevent that from happening again, by creating new laws and government board to oversee it all.

3. In 1968, when the country was divided about the Vietnam and the President (at the time, Richard Nixon) was losing his poll ratings and wanted to be re-elected, he criticized some protesters who had attacked his car, causing a counter-demonstration and riots between construction workers with pipes and anti-war protesters. Nixon won the election by dividing the country and we elected perhaps the most corrupt President ever.

4. Something happen in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1955 between ships at sea that got us involved, in the Vietnam war. There is controversy to this day about whether or not the events ever actually happened.  64,000 American troops died in the seventeen year war, with over a million people .  This was shown in Ken Burns’ documentary in the last two weeks.

More recently, we invaded Iraq when the President said Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction”. There were none. At least 50% of the population knew that to start with. People are still dying from the effects of that war, also caused by a lie.

5. The Little Rock 9 — Little kids, for goodness sake! — had to go to school with an armed escort because the governor of Arkansas blocked the children from going in, and the national guard was on the governor’s side. This began the desegregation of schools where people of different races got to know each other and saw that the other wasn’t all bad, and we could have one America.

According to Wikipedia the students were still subjected to a year of physical and verbal abuse (being spat on and called names) by many of the white students. Melba Pattillo had acid thrown into her eyes and also recalled  an incident in which a group of white girls trapped her in a stall in the girls’ washroom and attempted to burn her by dropping pieces of flaming paper on her from above. Another one of the students, Minnijean Brown, was verbally confronted and abused.

Of these 9 children, 2 have doctorates, 1 more has a master’s degree, one became a soldier and fought for our country, 1 became an author, 1 is on the list of 75 most powerful Black people in America, 1 became a teacher in Little Rock. In other words, they were a benefit to American culture and they were abused getting there. They have all received the Presidential Medal of Honor and attended the the inauguration of the man that conservatives say divided the country, Barack Obama.

 

Honestly, have we learned nothing? The Earth could end if we don’t learn from Hiroshima and Nagasaki Thousands, perhaps millions could die if we don’t learn from the Gulf of Tonkin, and Iraq. Even in peace-time, Americans can lose their homes, their jobs, and faith in our economy if Warren’s Board has its legal standing gutted by Congress.  America can erupt if politicians pit us against each other for their own gains. Good Republicans and the gifts of the Arkansas 9 will be forgotten if we forget Eisenhower’s work and call neo-Nazis “good people”.   Our best selves will be gone if we choose to forget  them. I, for one, refuse to have that happen.

 

Resisting With Peace,

 

John

 

 

 

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