Learning from the Past

911For those history buffs out there, here’s a test. What country could be described by these conditions, which occurred over decade or so:

• Injured national pride;
• A new national leader who had not been elected by majority vote;
• An economic calamity that almost overnight destroyed the middle class standard of living;
• Long term unemployment/underemployment over 25%;
• A terrorist event, forewarned to the leaders, that set ablaze a symbol of the nation and resulted in laws passed allowing increased domestic security, monitoring of personal communications, arrest of suspicious people to be held without access to lawyers, military tribunals and an all out war on terrorism;
• Private army of over 400,000;
• Rise of a new minority political party that:

– is ultra right wing and fanatical;
– has a short and easy to remember name;
– funded by bankers and wealthy industrialists;
– panders to lower class white men with disciplined messages about Christian purity, anti-communism, free enterprise, the military, nationalism, freedom and the protection of the homeland;
– effective in propaganda, staged events and use of their own media;
– uncompromising in denying passage of emergency legislation needed during a crisis to undermine the sitting government;
– with leaders who make simplistic, often inflammatory rhetoric against well-educated elite in government and media.

Please use the comment box for your answer.

Authors note: For the last few weeks, I have been working on a story about the ethics of political hate. My intention was to discuss teachings of different religions and historic figures from political movements; examples of divided government and failed democracies; etc.  Each time I began writing, I kept returning to stories of one particular failed democracy. I’ve stopped working on the piece, at least for now, until I can approach it with a fresher angle. In many ways, my story kept sounding way too much like this piece, which I hadn’t read at the time, written eight years ago: http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0316-08.htm – I encourage you to take a look at it. We are living in scary times. I not referring to war and terrorism, though they are scary, I am referring to us.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana, The Life of Reason The Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905

6 thoughts on “Learning from the Past

  1. Jack deJarnette

    I might as well ask you as anyone else. Why do liberals treat conservatives as mindless idiots? How can we ever effectively communucate with such vitriol. I don’t mean you in particular, but the entire liberal mindset seems to lean this way. Can we not disagree on issues without denigrating each other to the point of counterproductivity?

    1. Lee Leslie Post author

      Gee whiz, Jack, did I do that? If I did, I apologize. My concern here, is about our democracy. About the dangers a democracy faces in troubled times. About learning from history that terrible events can lead to fear than blame than hate then worse. In Norway after the shootings, their leaders sought reconciliation, not retribution. This story, and our times, are not about conservatives vs. liberals. It is about blame vs. understanding. About context and perspective. About enlightenment vs. fear. Our country is divided. It is to provoke thought and pose the question of what we do next and how we find a common good.

    2. Monica Smith

      I don’t really care whether someone tries to denigrate me. That’s their problem. What I do care about is people being abused and deprived of their human rights, including adequate medical care, nutrition and the resources necessary to make a living. The right to life is a bad joke, if people aren’t enabled to live.
      There’s much concern this weekend, again, about the dead. Not enough, IMHO, about the living who are being abused right and left.
      Just the other day, a 71 year old man was pounced on by police goons because he asked Congressman Ryan a question that Ryan couldn’t answer and didn’t even want to hear. And while the old man was being manhandled, Ryan chortled that he hoped the fellow had taken his blood pressure medicine.
      Why such blatant public disrespect? Because it intimidates the witnesses. It’s long been asked how it happened that Germans allowed so many Jewish neighbors to be taken away in broad daylight. It was precisely because it was out in the open, without any objection, by anyone that the hopelessness of the situation was driven home. Most lynchings in the U.S. were public spectacles, for the same reason. For that matter, the King of the Jews was not executed in the Garden of Gethsemane at night.
      Evil is not something one disagrees with.

  2. Jeff Cochran

    Hello Jack. There are many thoughtful liberals in this country who believe there are thoughtful conservatives who love America and our democratic tradition. Then we see guys like Republican frontrunner Rick Perry make a spectacle of himself in this week’s Republican debate. Here’s a guy who prefaced his announcement as a candidate by staging a massive prayer rally in Houston. He invokes Jesus, the one who stated that when we pray, go into our room, and shut the door.

    It might be said that conservative Christians are idiots themselves if they don’t run- quickly- from a guy like Perry.

    Several years ago I met the GOP’s 1996 presidential nominee, Robert Dole, a conservative, who was very gracious. In his speech that evening at the Atlanta History Center, he mentioned how the nation benefits when both sides work together. There may have been some disagreement on Dole’s stand on certain issues, but he was not considered an idiot.

    When the Republicans offer more than the knuckle-dragging types like Perry, Bachman, Cain, Palin (I could go on), they will not be recipients of so many harmful invectives.

    By the way, I enjoyed your stories on Cornelia and College Park

  3. Jack deJarnette

    Okay all. I am embarrassed along with most thinking people about the Republican candidates who are running thus far and frankly, I don’t see anyone better in the wings; for that reason and that reason alone, I don’t think that Republicans have a chance of winning the next election based on reason. Based on emotion, however, I think it is a quite different story!

    I resent politicians that play on religion to win public favor. I believe many are sincere in their beliefs, but make a mockery of it when they take it to the public square. I would not dare to use God in such a trivial way. Even if one, does not believe in God, what if? That is pure manipulation of something holy.

    Monica, I, like you have a deep heart for those who don’t have the bare necessities for life. I give a great deal financially and in personal service to help, but we (the government) have created a subculture that is dependent on the largess of others. I know that is a discussion that we don’t want to have, but it is true! Just this afternoon I was shopping at the grocery and a woman purchased a cart full of needed food, family supplies with food stamps, and I was thrilled that I was a part of helping her family enjoy a better life. She took her groceries and put them in her car, came back in and bought beer and cigarettes with cash. That is a far too often played out scenario.

    You would be amazed at how often during the last 15 years of my 30 year ministry people came in asking for handouts and we offered groceries, medications, gasoline only to be rebuffed because they wanted money. Why do you suppose? Some sociologists say that is demeaning and robs them of personal choice. I’m sorry but when I was needy and lived that way for a while, I did not feel demeaned in the least by the graciousness of others!

    The ACLU has decided to sue Florida for requiring drug tests for people on welfare while people in law enforcement, hospital employees, workers with children, and jobs requiring security tests are routinely required to take them. The reasons in each case are clear. Can the absurdity of that not be clearly seen?

    My conservative views are based in principles that my father and grandfather taught me—you can not spend more than you earn—a person who can earn a living should do so rather than live on handouts—people who are elected to serve public offices should do so for the benefit of those they serve and not themselves.

    Lee, I didn’t mean to pick on you particularly, but your article gave me an opening for my question, not accusation.

    Here’s my deal—how in the name of anything good can we ever accomplish anything for anyone if we can’t be at least collegial in our conversations? Both Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell should be taken to the outhouse and made to sit there until they act in a civilized manner.

    How about forgetting liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican and become American’s united to solve the huge problems that are destroying our great land.

    Finally, I love America and I dearly love these conversations!

  4. Mark Dohle

    I think as a country we are certainly at a crossroads and yes Lee it is scary to say the least. People will not often think about the future, that how we live and what we will decide now, will create the world for those who come after us. Seeds planted will either bear fruit or thorns, or perhaps we will simple die as a culture, which that is a real possibility, something that I feel most don’t want to think about. Everything ends, it is just a matter of time. I would prefer that we become more long sighted vs short sighted when making choices on which direction we would like to go. Though I am out of my depth when it comes to issues like this.


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