Quote of the moment: Price of repeating history

November 3, 2007


“Each time history repeats itself, the price goes up.”

Ronald Wright, A Short History of Progress, (House of Anansi Press, 2004) (Carroll and Graf, 2005)

Cover of Ronald Wright's A Short History of Progress(This book resulted from Ronald Wright’s 2004 lectures in the famous Canadian series, the Massey Lectures. The lectures are broadcast on radio by the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC), whose website features an excerpt from the Wright lectures. You may get a podcast of Wright’s lecture 1, here; and lecture 2, here. Wright suggests that, after 10,000 years of experimenting with civilization, generally leading to failure, we have a chance to get things right, now, if we act wisely. “It describes in particular how four historical civilisations – those of Easter Island, Sumer, the Maya and Rome – self-destructed due to a lack of foresight and to wrong choices. Wright argues ‘each time history repeats itself, the price goes up.'” Martin Scorsese is developing the movie rights.)

Wright’s use of the phrase is the earliest I’ve been able to document quickly; but it’s a popular phrase now. Please note in comments if you know of an earlier use that can be tracked down.


The first use of “terrorism”

November 3, 2007

Did you ever wonder when the term “terrorism” first appeared, and against what terror it was aimed?

George Bush and Dick Cheney will not like the answer. François Furstenberg gives the history of the term in an opposite-editorial page piece in the New York Times, “Bush’s Dangerous Liaisons.”

Here’s a hint: The phrase referred to governmental the ruling party’s actions against its own people, originally.

Furstenberg is a professor of history at the University of Montreal, and a scholar of George Washington.

Veterans Affairs will allow inaccurate history

November 3, 2007

At the same time the Cleveland Plain Dealer defended inaccurate history in flag-folding ceremonies, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced it would allow inaccurate ceremonies, if the family of the departed veteran requests it, and if the family provides the script. Here’s the news from the Akron Beacon-Journal.

Scripts must still adhere to standards that prohibit racism, obscenity, or political partisanship.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, what’s gotten into you?

November 3, 2007

My brothers in journalism at the usually sensible Cleveland Plain Dealer have lost their journalistic senses.

In an editorial this morning, the paper supports, defends and calls for the reinstatement of the inaccurate, insulting and embarrassing flag folding script that the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Cemeteries finally, belatedly but justly, stopped promulgating a few weeks ago.

In the words of the Plain Dealer:

Those are not just folds in a meaningless fabric or empty words spoken at the grave site. They represent honor, continuity with the past, traditions to be preserved, even when some of the words may quietly be set aside for families who wish a different approach.

America’s military men and women put on the line not just life and limb, but often precious time with their children, higher pay or easier jobs, help to a spouse or an aging parent. They do so to serve their country. Their recompense when they get home is a veterans system at best struggling to meet crescendoing needs for medical, rehabilitative and psychiatric care – and now with a tin ear for what matters.

Except that they ARE meaningless words in the script, violative of tradition and law, historically inaccurate, and insulting to the memory of patriots like George Washington. They do not honor the past, portraying a false past instead. The ceremony is not traditional, having been written only in the past three decades or so. The script departs radically from the historic path of America’s patriots, defending freedom without regard to profession of faith.

Christians, Jews, Moslems, atheists and others put their lives on the line to defend this nation. They didn’t ask that their memories be fogged with silly and historically inaccurate glop.

The Air Force has a flag folding script that does not bend history or assault anyone’s religion. If someone wants to use a ceremony, why not that one? The accurate, Air Force version honors America’s veterans:

Traditionally, a symbol of liberty, the American flag has carried the message of freedom, and inspired Americans, both at home and abroad.

In 1814, Francis Scott Key was so moved at seeing the Stars and Stripes waving after the British shelling of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry that he wrote the words to “The Star Spangled Banner.”

In 1892, the flag inspired Francis Bellamy to write the “Pledge of Allegiance,” our most famous flag salute and patriotic oath.

In July 1969, the American flag was “flown” in space when Neil Armstrong planted it on the surface of the moon.

Why does the Plain Dealer choose a religious screed that insults history over a script that accurately honors all of America’s veterans?

The full text of the newer, accurate ceremony is below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

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