In the words of the great man of letters and philosopher, George Santayana, who sagely said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it!” It seems that each generation must pay the price when they fail to learn the hard lessons of reality.
I am always amazed by the folks who pine for the “good old days!” What were those legendary “good old days?” Was it the prosperity after WWI after 320,000 casualties and 116,000 dead which led to the Roaring 20’s which brought on the Great Depression that lasted from 1929 to the onset of WWII? Or, maybe it was World War II, where America got off lightly, with only 1 million casualties and over 400,000, killed! Again, this time, the so-called civilized world was left prostrate and America could pick up the pieces, and be on top of the proverbial food chain for the next twenty years, when we got ourselves into another war. But, this time the next the next generation of draftees weren’t so happy fighting in some far off Asian war. At the same time, 20 million Blacks got tired of discrimination in every element of American life, women got fed up having unwanted pregnancies, being beaten by their loutish husbands and Gays were sick of being bashed at every opportunity. Were they any less human than the rest of us?
But, what have we learned since those halcyon days of the social revolution that was the late 1960’s? We learned that there was abuse of countless youngsters done by religious leaders we trusted. Was that abuse new? Hardly! It had been going on for countless years, but everyone victim was afraid to speak out. What did we learn about sexual harassment and abuse? We certainly didn’t learn that this was a new phenomenon. In fact, the proverbial casting couch went back as far as one could remember. But, was that only limited to Hollywood and Broadway? Hardly! In fact, sexual harassment, had been happening in offices and school rooms all over the country for generations. Has anyone ever considered the abuse of Native Americans in the era of the reservations and the Indian Schools, long after the closing of the frontier in 1890! Has anyone bothered to contemplate the abuse of the mentally ill and the elderly in the nursing homes, also known as the Medicaid Mills. Those certainly weren’t the good old days for millions!
But, what about the lives of immigrants who flocked here from the 1880’s until right after WWI. How were they treated? Has this generation read about the squalor of tenement life in the mean streets of the immigrant ghettoes? Has anyone really contemplated how the gangs (Irish, Italian and Jewish) in these ghettoes lived off and abused these folks through violence, extortion, protection, racketeering and terror! Was it any different than the KKK and the Night Riders of the South, who terrorized millions of Blacks for almost 100 years, resulting in over 2000 lynchings and countless other murders from 1865 to 1950. Has anyone bothered to read about the work of the Muckrakers; Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens, Jacob Riis, or many others who exposed the malfeasance and criminality of the meat packing industry, the snake oil salesmen, the patent medicine frauds, the people who padded the Pure Food and Drug Acts, and demanded clean air and water? By the way, we had pollution (smog) in most cities of the United States up until the late 1960s and the amount of people who suffered from asthma, congestive lung disease as in emphysema and cancer, were in the millions.
By the way, we had a Civil War, because one half of the country rebelled over their right to enslave people. That war cost over 700,000 lives and destroyed the South for more than a generation. In today’s numbers, that would be equivalent to 7 million dead. But, how about crime in America! We have more people in jail in the United States than all the countries in the world, except China, and aside from that huge number of 2 million, there are four times as many on parole. Let’s understand these folks aren’t all minorities. In Florida, we have 1.6 million former felons, who do not have the right to vote. We just passed a referendum, giving them that right. Of that number only 24% are Black. By the way, though 64% voted to allow these folks to vote, the new Republican governor wants no part of the will of the people!
As for drugs and alcohol abuse, they have been around forever and the amount of deaths from those abuses were prevalent and monstrous throughout our history. Let us not forget the demands of the Anti-Saloon League, resulting in Prohibition, which failed miserably.
Without belaboring the point, we have had over 33,000 gun deaths, each and every, year for decades. In comparison, Australia with 1/14th of our population had 236 gun deaths in 2013. In comparison, with our 32,000 we had 135 times the amount of gun-related killings! The differential in Western Europe are pretty close to the same.
I could go on and on, but, who wants a regurgitation of our sordid history?