Archives for category: History

At Fredericksburg Lee said “It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.”

The irony and paradox of war is that virtue and self-sacrifice may transcend death and destruction. That the meaning of life is revealed in the maelstrom of death.

The 2008 global economic crisis is among the reasons why we find ourselves where we are today. Things fell apart and a significant number of people realized that the system was not only stacked against them but was broken.

Ten years distant we’re beginning to see historical analysis that describes the ramifications of the event in clear perspective.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

In our dismal present it takes an effort to absorb Faulkner’s insight that the past lingers in the present both in memory and in daily life, for better or worse.

We live in a time of nostalgia for a past when white America was dominant and unchallenged and the United States was globally ascendant.

Despite Trump’s siren song of “Again” and the present policy reassertion of historical American power the clock cannot be reset: the past is past. Our world continues to spin into the future.

50 years is a long time ago but we are living with its legacy: crippling deceit, racism and inequality, murder and death, unending war, and a systemic loss of trust in government and institutions. America has been transformed in many ways but also remains much the same. 2018 reminds me of 1968, although today is not as cataclysmic (yet). But it’s still early.

In 1968 many were animated by a naive and energetic power, convinced that truth meant seeing things as they really are. They were motivated by a conviction that social and political change had to be made. They believed that it was essential to reject hypocrisy and inaction, and that thuggery, dishonesty, and injustice had to be confronted to alter a destructive status quo to end suffering and death. They wished instead for humanity and grace.

It has always been the historic role of youth to demand change. The young derive power from self-righteousness and gather force together in a community of like-minded peers, to mobilize change through powerful emotion, demanding social and political justice. Confronted by vanity and decadent power, youth reject empty promises and false choices, demanding course correction and an allegiance to truth.

In 1968 a young generation felt betrayed by malevolence and mendacity. Angry that the American birthright of freedom and adventure was being trampled and squandered, they rose up and said no, enough, no more.

Then as now the American Experiment hangs in the balance.

1968 Plus 50 Years: The Irony of History

One last assessment of a grim year. Let’s hope 2018 isn’t worse or catastrophic:

17 striking findings from 2017

Among the many disconcerting and ominous realizations from the Trump election is the final reckoning that not only is the American Century (1900-1999) long past, but what we once perceived as America’s special place in the constellation of eminent and enlightened civilizations was a flawed narrative and illusory from the start. When did exceptionalism metastasize into triumphalism?

The past 120 years have been a historical accident as well as an exercise of national self-deception on a massive scale. It turns out that although America may still be a magnificent idea it is flawed in execution. Not surprisingly our self-image is not really the one that appears in the mirror.

The American experiment may be a “shining city on the hill” at times and a beacon of freedom and democracy when we’re at our best, but more often than not we are just as selfish, corrupt and rapacious as every other government, tribe and guild that has ever existed before us, with some unique portion of hypocrisy and self-congratulation added to the mix.

Churchill is right: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” Let’s hope that we learn from our mistakes, don’t make the same ones twice, and that we’ll find a measure of redemption in the future.


“In wildness is the preservation of the world” wrote Henry David Thoreau.

A new biography and David Brinkley mark Thoreau’s 200th birthday anniversary.

Take a walk, observe closely and “Live the life you have imagined.”

It seems we’re at an inflection point, a duality that has significant consequences to our future.

This essay sums up the situation astutely. Competition or cooperation, we must decide.