Friday, November 22, 2013

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

  • November 22, 1963: President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
  • April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
  • June 6, 1968: Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated.
  • July 21, 1969: Neil Armstrong walks on the moon.
You tell me that I need to forget these events as though they never happened?

You tell me that you don't care because you weren't born yet?

This post was prompted by something that Andrea Habura wrote on Facebook. She says that she is an "R&D Scientist at Next Advance, Inc." Here's what she wrote ...
The demographics of Camelot: As you will no doubt have heard by now, today is the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. I've also been repeatedly informed that everyone is still shocked and saddened by it, and that "we" will never forget how we felt when we heard the news.

Dear newscasters: Most Americans were either not alive yet, or too young to notice. Only 25% of Americans are over 55 (http://www.indexmundi.com/united_states/demographics_profile.html), and some of them were living in other countries in 1963. To most of us, the shooting in Dallas was about like what happened in Ford's Theater, with the exception that our teachers seemed to feel *really* strongly about it. Let it go.
Just for the record, I understand how my parents felt on May 5, 1945 (VE Day) even though I wasn't born yet. I understand how they felt when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by atomic bombs. I think I know how they felt on March 29, 1945 when President Roosevelt died.

I understand what my parents and my grandparents went through on October 29, 1929 when the stock market crashed and life's saving were lost. I listened when they told me of the pain and suffering during the great depression. I never told them to "let it go."

I'd like to think I know how traumatic it must have been for Americans on April 15, 1865 even though I wasn't there.
Dear Andrea,

The world did not begin when you were born. Listen and learn from your elders. You will be a better person.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
                                                                        George Santayana


32 comments :

  1. I don't think she (or anyone) is *really* saying that we can't understand things that didn't happen in our lifetime or that it isn't important to know about earlier events and generations, but it is somewhat annoying as a member of younger generation to constantly hear Baby Boomers talk about *their* experiences as if they were somehow more important than ours. No, "we" don't remember JFK or Woodstock or The Beatles. You do. It's particularly amusing coming from the Boomers because they were the generation who thought old people were inherently untrustworthy, and yet they want us younger people to trust *them* about their view of the world.

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    1. Not quite getting what you want here. Of course people talk mostly about their own memories. I've always been curious about the memories and stories of others. That's one of the ways we learn.

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    2. @Jonathan Badger,

      Okay. I'm listening. What are the definitive moments in your life that had a significant impact on modern society? What will you tell your grandchildren that you witnessed while growing up?

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    3. It was on television at school, but the takeoff and explosion of the shuttle Challenger was probably the major "where were you?" moment of my generation (at least before 9/11 replaced it). I'm not claiming that my memories will be any more interesting to future generations than previous ones are to mine.

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    4. Jonathan Badger said,

      I'm not claiming that my memories will be any more interesting to future generations than previous ones are to mine.

      Of course you're not. That would be absurd.

      All I want to know is what events happened in your lifetime that are comparable in importance to those that happened in the life of baby boomers? Do you have something that compares to Watergate or the war in Viet Nam? Do you have something that compares to the assassinations of JFK, Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King? What is your "Woodstock?" What about the civil rights movement, the rise of feminism, and sexual freedom (birth control)?

      Is the Challenger disaster the best you've got? How about Michael Jackson? The election of Ronald Regan? Star Wars?

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    5. Thank you for demonstrating exactly the sort of bullshit boomer arrogance that I was talking about. The only cliche you missed was saying that The Beatles were the best band ever in the history of mankind.

      There's plenty of events that happened in the lifetime of my generation (Gen-X) that were as important as those you mention. I thought you were talking about *traumatic* events.

      But expanding the definition to include positive events, I'd certainly say that the fall of the Berlin Wall and the freeing of the Eastern Bloc was equal to any the events you mention. I remember growing up thinking that sooner or later I was going to die in a nuclear war with the USSR when suddenly that whole scenario became implausible. And I'd say the rise of the Web (which not only happened in the Gen-X lifetime but was largely instigated by them) was a revolution beyond anything from the Boomer years.

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    6. Globalization of the internet. Way more important than anything else listed.

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    7. I agree that personal computers and the internet were significant changes in society. Almost as sigificant as television, which, in turn, was almost as significant and transformative as the radio and telephone of my parents generation.

      I don't know which generation was responsible for the internet. I thought it was Al Gore? :-)

      The collapse of the Soviet Union was a significant event. I'm not sure which generation "owns" it. My children remember it. Is that generation X?

      So does my mother. She is from the generation that saw the creation of the Soviet Union, experienced the horror of World War II, and witnessed the subjugation of Eastern Europe. I'm grateful that I never had to fight in a war and I'm sad that the people who remember what it was like (and warn us against ever doing it again) will soon be gone. I can't imagine telling them to shut up and I can't imagine telling them that they are arrogant just because they lived in interesting and traumatic times.

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    8. I liked the Beatles but I also liked many other bands. I've heard many experts say that the Beatles were, in fact, the best band ever. This seems like something that can be answered objectively. Does anyone know the consensus opinion of the experts on popular music? Do they consider the groups of the 70s and 80s to be bettet than those of the 60s?.

      I don't remember the top songs voted by Rolling Stone magazine but I think the list had a lot of songs from my era. Maybe Jonathan Badger can correct me if I'm wrong?

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    9. I remember the Challenger disaster. It gave me an appreciation of Kennedy. My Mom tells of how she was hanging up the washing when someone told her that Kennedy was killed. Challenger was the first time something happened that you just had to tell everyone you met and talk about with your friends. After that I was able to "get it" about Kennedy.

      What experience was the most stunning revelation growing up for me? Pacman. I remember the first time I saw a Pacman machine; the first time I heard the "woo woo woo" siren and the distinctive "muncha muncha muncha" sound. It was Pacman that was the "wow" invention that we all talked about, all spent our time with, and all understood was marking the beginning of of something radical and new. ...that in the future, instead of hours a day watching TV, people would be spending hours a day playing electronic games. As kids we all knew that life was going to be different because of what these games would do for us.

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    10. There's a classic saying when people argue when the Golden Age of Science Fiction was. The saying goes "The Golden Age of Science Fiction is 12", meaning there is no objective decade where SF was better, but that people have a subjective fondness for works that were published when they are young. So is it with music (although the Golden Age is probably around 16 there). I suspect that's the reason for The Beatles showing up on critics' lists. Lately Gen-X has been going through similar navel-gazing with the 20th anniversary of various Nirvana albums. We just don't get that younger generations will never be as interested in Nirvana or as obsessed with Kurt Cobain as we were.

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    11. Spelling Nazi here. Ronnie the rat's name is spelled Reagan.

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    12. Spelling Nazi here.

      You're going to be a very busy person if you continue to hang out on this blog.

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  2. We older people do need to avoid over generalization. However, speaking of over generalization, decades ago I thought my contemporaries who considered older people inherently untrustworthy were, frankly, nuts. And I chuckled (silently) at a professor who was coming to terms with turning 30 himself.

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  3. Abraham Lincoln, like most ‘northern’ whites at the time, was a terrible racist. He wanted a white America and for blacks to leave. He made plans to resettle freed slaves in Haiti and Panamá (Colombia at the time), where they would mine coal. No one seems to remember that the underground railroad for escaped slaves didn´t end in Illinois or Ohio; it went to Canada. Lincoln did have some good ideas and made quotable quotes. One I especially like, although not particularly quotable, is "History is not history unless it is the truth" [Wm. H. Herndon. 1888. Herndon’s Lincoln, vol. 3. p. 437]. One important cause of the Civil War was that Lincoln miscalculated the South's objection to tariffs protecting New England manufacturing and its reaction to Washington's military response to Fort Sumner. The only good that came from the Civil War (IMHO) was the abolition of slavery. But there must have been a better way . . . If Lincoln only had had the good sense of Kennedy!

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    1. First sentence in you make a huge assertion. "...good ideas and quotable quotes."? Have you read The Gettysburg address?! That iconic speech is considered to be the greatest ever delivered in American history.

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    2. Abraham Lincoln was born to members of an anti-slavery Protestant church in Kentucky. He grew up in southern Indiana, where the people were as proud of being anti-slavery as they were satisfied in a law that prohibited blacks from living in the state. Newspapers there published quite ordinary statements of the bigoted kind we rarely hear now outside the Aryan Nation. Was Lincoln racist? Inevitably, as a person of his time and place. However, Lincoln’s life doesn’t end there.

      Lincoln was a tremendously ambitious youth, determined to leave his homesteading roots behind. At first, his concerns were financial and personal – how would he make a living, move away, move up. Later his interests became political. He read omnivorously and thought deeply about what he read. And all along he cared about and observed other people with an intensity not often seen. As an ambitious politician and a human being concerned with doing right, he gravitated to the great social issue of his day, slavery. This issue had brought the country to crisis after political crisis for the previous decades.

      Lincoln’s understanding of slavery was not just intellectual. He’s seen the ugly underbelly of slavery when shocked to see a chained line of slaves transported on the Illinois River, when delivering farm produce by barge down the Mississippi to New Orleans, when watching his landlady in Washington, D. C., sell a slave who had nearly finished buying his freedom from her in installments. He acted in lawsuits involving slaves in Illinois attempting to flee their southern owners. He had also seen the pleasant surface of slavery when visiting his rich in-laws on their Kentucky farm, where the house slaves knew how lucky they were to have the jobs they did and worked hard to keep those places. He thought about these people who where slaves, and how he would fee in their positions.

      Was Lincoln a racist as president? No doubt. He knew little about blacks. However, a couple of incidents suggest that calling him a “terrible racist” is simply ignorant.

      First, well aware that many whites who thought ending slavery was right in theory opposed it in practice because they couldn’t tolerate the risk they felt they would experience if blacks lived free among them. If the blacks would just agree to go somewhere, anywhere else, Lincoln could better accomplish his goals. Blacks weren’t enthusiastic, so Lincoln did what he was used to doing with other groups who disagreed with him; he invited black leaders to meet with him and discuss the matter. This lobbying effort didn’t go as Lincoln had hoped. The black leaders insisted that they were Americans too and they intended to stay. Lincoln didn’t reject his politically necessary position that transporting blacks elsewhere was practical, but his heart didn’t seem in it any more and he left the scheming for it to his aides. Note this! Lincoln inviting the black leaders to the White House to talk with them (not just give orders) was unprecedented. Lincoln received a lot of criticism for it – he was treating those n******s as if they were as good as white politicians!

      Second, we have the published statements of Frederick Douglass, the former slave who became a leader of the anti-slavery effort in the north. Douglass met with Lincoln several times. The two often disagreed politically, and Douglass was quick to publish his disappointment at Lincoln’s slow movement toward emancipation. However, Douglass also wrote that talking with Lincoln was different from talking with any other white person Douglass met. Douglass worked with many anti-slavery whites who treated him well and knew they did and were proud of it. Lincoln just conversed with Douglass as a person.

      To sum up, racism is a whole spectrum of behaviors and attitudes. Lincoln was an amazingly minimally racist person (at least toward blacks) for his time and place. He wasn’t non-racist, but he’d even be a pretty good minimally racist person even now.

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    3. Strider says,

      The Gettysburg address?! That iconic speech is considered to be the greatest ever delivered in American history.

      Is that true? Better than "I have a dream"? Oops! Wait a minute ... Martin Luther King's speech was delivered in the 1960s so that automatically makes it suspect if you weren't born yet but baby boomers were.

      Sorry 'bout that.

      Carry on.

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    4. The "I Have A Dream" speech was amazing and inspirational, no doubt. However, MLK's speech was a natural progression from the GA and even references it.

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    5. Laurence you seem to be asserting that history is viewed as temporally disjunct by different generations (including myself). I view history as a continuum as it should be.

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    6. Strider says,

      Laurence you seem to be asserting that history is viewed as temporally disjunct by different generations (including myself). I view history as a continuum as it should be.

      I have no idea what you're talking about.

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  4. Good thread indeed and a rightful correction of a nasty position from this person.
    When a president (or PM0 is shot for only the reason they are the top dog 9not some personal animus) then its as if every citizen was murdered. The killer was killing the boss. so anyone who would be the boss would of been the victim. its very personal. in fact its not just you but all your fellow citizens, its like a genocide in one bullet.
    So this girl should feel the impact of a president being killed just as much as those who were alive then. Its a line of reasoning.
    Probably 20000 people were murdered that year in america but the citizens see that as not personal for them and everyone.
    I feel it but was not born yet. I feel it as a foreigner but of coarse we are the same people for all intents and purposes. All yanks would feel it if the Queen was murdered.
    i would feel it if Obama was killed even though I deeply oppose his being president based on identity claims.

    As for people living in foreign countries and later immigrating WELL its up to them to demonstrate to themselves and North Americans exactly the same sentiments as evidence they are in great respect for being allowed into our nations. They should feel it just as much in mutual countrymenness. They should not be still so foreign in heart.
    If one does not feel keenly the murder of Kennedy then one is not an American .
    If one doesn't feel it as a Canadian then one is not a Canadian as we feel keenly for our close neighbours.
    Once again kids show they are dumb and nasty and need instruction.
    Just the few of them I hope.

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    1. i would feel it if Obama was killed even though I deeply oppose his being president based on identity claims.

      A bit off topic, but pertinent to your false claim here:

      Percentage of voters by race in the 2012 presidential election:

      Romney:
      White 88%
      Black 2%
      Latino 6%
      Asian 2%
      Other 2%

      Obama
      White 56%
      Black 24%
      Latino 14%
      Asian 4%
      Other 2%

      Obama's victory was the result of the failure of "identity claims". Most of the people who voted for him were white.

      Meahnwhile, Romney ran a campaign designed to appeal solely to white voters, and lost as a result. The fact that no one but White Christians want to vote for the GOP is the major problem they are facing right now.

      (Source: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/scocca/2012/11/mitt_romney_white_voters_the_gop_candidate_s_race_based_monochromatic_campaign.html)

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  5. As a 48 year old, 9-11 seems to me the most obvious answer. I think this is arguably a unique event among the one's we are considering here. Some of them (JFK's assassination, the Challenger disaster) were deeply emotional and unexpectedly sudden events, that also happened to play out practically before our eyes thru TV coverage. However, in the end I'd have to say they had little impact on the greater progress of history. LBJ was able to implement most of Kennedy's agenda (most notably the Civil Rights Act). And space exploration has proceeded pretty well as it would have if the Challenger hadn't exploded.

    Other events, such as the sexual revolution, the civil rights movement or the rise and fall of Soviet Communism, had profound and far reaching social and politcal effects. But these were not dramatic moments that struck us with the impact of the two events mentioned above.

    The events of September 11, 2001, however, combine both of these. Like JFK and the Challenger, it was an emotional trauma that was immediately and simultaneously experienced by millions. Yet it has also had a profound and lingering effect on our daily lives. The foreign and domestic policy of almost every North American and European nation has been dominated by the after-effects of 9-11. This is most obvious in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it is also evident in the greater degree of intrusion into our privacy lives that the state has felt emboldened to follow, and even down the mundane level of having to remove your shoes before boarding a plane.

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    1. I mostly agree. The events of 9-11 were the most traumatic in my lifetime. However, I'm not sure that I agree with you when you say that "foreign and domestic policy of almost every North American and European nation has been dominated by the after-effects of 9-11." Unless, of course, you mean that countries like Canada and France have to deal with the fall-out from the reaction of the USA to the attacks on 9-11.

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    2. There have been some more direct effects. We wouldn't have troops in Afghanistan if not for 9-11, as one example. And I think the Iraq war was a big reason the Labour Party was deposed in the UK.

      But, yes, the US is still such a dominant force on the world stage, that anything that affects it affects the rest of us.

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    3. It wasn't 9-11 that caused us to make the mistake of sending Canadian troops to Afghanistan. We did it because the USA did it and we felt an obligation to support America. I'm glad we didn't make the same mistake in Iraq.

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    4. "I'm glad we didn't make the same mistake in Iraq" or in Viet Nam.

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    5. It wasn't 9-11 that caused us to make the mistake of sending Canadian troops to Afghanistan. We did it because the USA did it and we felt an obligation to support America. I'm glad we didn't make the same mistake in Iraq.

      But obviously the only reason the invasion of Afghanistan occurred was because of 9-11.

      I also don't agree that we only went there out of support for the USA. Most Canadians, and in fact most of the rest of the world, experienced 9-11 as an attack on themselves and, more importantly, as an indicator of the existence of a powerful enemy who would launch further attacks. And at the time that enemy was operating out of Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban gov't. So the participating in the invasion of Afghanistan was perceived as a justifiable and necessary act of self defense.

      Whether it actually was that, of course, is a matter for debate.

      By the time the invasion of Iraq came about, it was fortunately clear to the Liberal gov't of the time that this was an unjustified miltary action that was done under the pretext of protecting the US from further terrorist attacks, from a nation that had nothing to do with 9-11, and refused to participate. It's worth remembering that, at the time, Stephen Harper criticized this decision and said, if he were PM, he would have joined the attack.

      IMHO, that was the defining moment of Chretien's term as PM.

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  6. Andrea Habura advises us to "Let it go."

    Next Advance, Inc. should let Andrea Habura go.

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  7. 9-11 was our equivalent of JFK, seeing as how both were executed by what Eisenhower called the military industrial complex.
    And both directly resulted in a bogus war in a third world nation that generated incredible profits for said complex.

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