The Repetition of History

Discussion about Donald Trump’s immigration deterring wall has settled over recent time. With The Donald there are always emergencies and embarrassing events to be dealt with and they often keep out eyes busy while other sleights of hand or works of deception are being performed.

Still, I’m amazed that no one has made a comparison between the way in which the Iron Curtain fell — and in particular the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.  No matter the intent of governments, a time came when governmental insistence on separation was forcibly overruled by the will of the people — no matter the obstructions, no matter the armed guards or their bullets, when the popular voice spoke with authority the Berlin Wall came down — and no long afterwards the terms East & West lost much of their meaning as trade and culture flowed freely  across what had been solid barriers. 

I well remember that night, November 9, 1989 when U.S. news broadcasts were interrupted to cover the events that began the removal of that wall.  I was sitting in the home of friends in Sacramento California.  I happened to have been on a religious speaking tour and we had ended our service for the night, returned to the house, and flicked on the news.  For what must have been hours we watched in fascination as the story unfolded.  The handful of people in that room — and many others around the world — knew that life would never be the same — and it has not been.

If you look at the faces in the crowd, what do you see but 20 & 30 somethings (for the most part). Revolutions aren’t fought by the old.   It takes energy and zeal and passion and … yes, a little foolhardiness and ignorance of your own mortality to get out there and fight the unscripted battle that lay ahead — specially when the other actors in the cast have guns and bullets and aren’t afraid to use them.

I find it interesting that a President who seems to ignorant of events (even in his own lifetime) supposes that you can change history by erecting a wall.  But arrogant men (and women) seldom pay attention to history; they always seem to think that they can do what no one else has done, or do it better, or faster, or … you get the idea.

Most of us have heard the quotation from George Santayana about repeating history:

but he is not the only one to comment in a similar vein. I think Erol Morris added a bit of whimsy and a bit of truth when he added the sense of ironic futility to the concept.


And isn’t that the truth?  There are times when we know that we are on a collision course with hisotry but we seem unable to derail the train and prevent the catastrophe — and the irony of knowing but being unable to alter the outcome seems greater than one can bear.

Then again there was Mark Twain, in his view it’s not so much that we are repeating history, as that we are repeating something only too similar… in short history “rhymes.”

In a world where the only things politicians seem to care about is winning — even if they harm their own citizens in the process and weaken the nation by their greed I have no illusions that saner minds will arise and bring sanity to the insanity I see around me.  No.  We ARE going to repeat history — in too many ways to mention.  And we can see the irony.  And we can hear the rhyme.

I wonder, whether there are people 40 years younger than myself who are sitting around waiting for the evening that they too can say, the world will never be the same again…


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